By Eric J. Conn, Chair of Conn Maciel Carey’s national OSHA Practice
Texas District Court Enjoins the Administration from Enforcing the Federal Government Contractor “Blacklisting” Provisions of the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council’s New Final “Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces” Rule.
On August 25, 2016, the Obama Administration, through the Federal Acquisition Regulatory (FAR) Council and in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Labor, promulgated the final Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces regulation and parallel guidance from the Labor Department, which collectively federal contractors have unaffectionately dubbed the “Blacklisting Rule.” The cornerstone provisions of the final rule establish expansive new reporting obligations for contractors bidding on executive branch contracts with an estimated value exceeding $500,000. These contractors, along with subcontractors whose portions of the overall contract meet the $500,000 threshold contract value, must disclose all confirmed and alleged violations issued under 14 labor laws, including alleged OSHA citations, within the three years prior to a prospective contractor’s bid submission, regardless of the status of the citation or whether the citation has yet been upheld in a judicial or administrative review process afforded employers. To be clear, under the final rule, all OSHA citations must be reported, even minor paperwork citations characterized as “OTS” (“other-than-serious”).
The final rule change the manner in which the rule applies to subcontractors. Unlike the proposed rule, the final rule requires covered subcontractors to disclose violations directly to the Department of Labor, which will conduct a “responsibility determination” and return it to the subcontractor, who in turn will then be required to deliver it to the prime contractor. The final rule also pushed back the mandatory disclosure date for subcontractors to October 25, 2017, a year after the disclosure requirements were set to begin for prime contractors.
The disclosure requirements for all contractors apply equally to related state labor laws, which sweeps in all citations issued under the 27 federal OSHA-approved state OSH programs administered by state occupational safety and health agencies such as CAL/OSHA. Whichever contractor is awarded a covered contract must also disclose any old and new OSHA or other alleged labor law violation (referred to in the regulation as “administrative merits determinations”) during regular, bi-annual reports throughout the life of the contract.
Rule Challenged and Preliminary Injunction Granted
Barely before contractors had time to read the regulation and attendant DOL guidance, however, and prior to its first effective date of October 25th, a group of industry trade associations filed a legal challenge in a Texas federal district court to the rule and requested the court grant emergency relief by Continue reading