OSHA Postpones Enforcement of Anti-Retaliation Provisions of e-Recordkeeping Rule Again

By Eric J. Conn and Dan C. Deacon

OSHA has once again delayed enforcement of the controversial anti-retaliation provisions of its new electronic injury and illness recordkeeping rule.  OSHA issued its second delay of the effective date of enforcement of this portion of the rule at the request of Judge Sam Lindsay of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.  Judge Lindsay is presiding over a legal challenge to this portion of the rule filed by industry plaintiffs, and asked OSHA to delay enforcement of the anti-retaliation provisions RK Rule FRto give the court additional time to consider a pending motion for preliminary injunction to indefinitely delay enforcement.  The new enforcement delay runs through December 1, 2016.

As we have described in previous articles, OSHA included in the new electronic recordkeeping rule, a set of new obligations requiring employers to implement “reasonable reporting” procedures for employees to report to their employers work-related injuries. Also included are a broad and vague new set of provisions that expand OSHA’s enforcement authority to prevent employer retaliation against employees who report injuries and illnesses. OSHA has provided little guidance on precisely what the agency intends by “reasonable” reporting procedures or what types of policies may violate the new anti-retaliation provisions, but we understand from past policy statements and regulatory history that OSHA will at least focus on reporting deadlines, safety incentive programs, post-injury drug testing, and management compensation or bonuses tied to injury rates.

Industry plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in the Northern District of Texas (TEXO ABC/AGC, Inc., et al. v. Perez, Civil Action No. 3:16-cv-01998-D) shortly after the final rule was promulgated, challenging these anti-retaliation elements of the rule on the grounds that OSHA did not show that the anti-relation provisions would actually reduce injury rates, and further that the agency did not follow requirements of the Administrative Procedures Act (“APA”) in the rulemaking process. The plaintiffs sought a preliminary injunction seeking to prevent OSHA from beginning to enforce these provisions pending Continue reading

OSHA’s Anti-Retaliation Recordkeeping Rule: Assault on Pizza Parties, Drug Tests and Exec Compensation

By Eric J. Conn and Dan C. Deacon of Conn Maciel Carey PLLC

OSHA’s recent Injury and Illness Recordkeeping reform has created quite a stir for employers.  As we discussed in an earlier article about the new Recordkeeping rule, OSHA now requires employers to electronically submit to OSHA their injury and illness recordkeeping data.  OSHA will, in turn, publish the data online for all the world to dissect.  It turns out, however, RK Rule FRthe electronic recordkeeping data submission elements of the new rule may not be the most problematic for employers.

The new Recordkeeping rule also increases employers’ obligations to implement “reasonable reporting” procedures for employees to report to their employers the work related injuries they incur, and expands OSHA’s enforcement authority by introducing a vague new set of anti-retaliation provisions.  To date, employers have seen little guidance about what OSHA means by reasonable reporting procedures or what types of policies may violate the new anti-retaliation provisions.

Particularly controversial is the impact of OSHA’s new rule on employers’ policies for post-injury drug testing, safety incentive programs, and executive compensation and bonuses.  Although none of those words appear in the amended Recordkeeping regulation, OSHA addressed each in the Preamble to the Final Rule.

These topics have been on OSHA’s radar for nearly a decade, dating back to a 2008 Report issued by the House of Representative Committee on Education and Labor entitled “Hidden Tragedy: Underreporting of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses.”  From that time, OSHA has been making efforts to address a perceived culture of underreporting injuries and retaliation against employees who do report workplace injuries and illnesses. OSHA has used every tool at its disposal to chip away at employer policies and practices that purportedly discriminate against employees who report injuries, or that attempt to deter employees from reporting injuries in the first place.

Even before this rulemaking, OSHA has taken action against policies that OSHA believes discourage reporting or recording of work related injuries.  For example, Continue reading