In a case of first impression, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held that a limited private right of action included in the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (the OSH Act) is very narrow and it does not continue after the Department of Labor completes its enforcement proceedings.
The OSH Act does not provide employees or other interested parties with a private right of action against employers to enforce OSHA standards or OSH Act requirements against employers, but it does, in very limited circumstances, allow employees to sue OSHA for the agency’s failure to address workplace safety concerns under. Historically, employees’ role in OSHA enforcement is just to observe workplace safety violations and lodge anonymous complaints with OSHA, requesting that OSHA conduct an inspection. OSHA then makes its own independent determination whether there are grounds for safety violations; i.e., whether to issue citations.
One area where employees have a slightly more power is in the context of imminent dangers. OSHA has authority under the OSH Act, when it identifies an imminent danger (or is informed of an imminent danger by a whistleblower-employee), to seek injunctive relief to promptly address the danger or stop work at the workplace. In this rare circumstance—where the risk of danger in the workplace is “imminent”—employees can attempt to force their employers’ and OSHA’s hands by Continue reading