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Workplace Safety and Health Law Blog

Federal OSHA increased its maximum penalties last summer for the first time since 1990. The increase occurred pursuant to a new law requiring federal agencies to adjust penalties to account for inflation. However, the OSH Act, which specifically provides the maximum penalties Fed-OSHA can administer, was not amended. It still prevents Fed-OSHA from issuing penalties higher than the levels set in 1990. 

Earlier this year, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to approve the Midnight Rules Relief Act by a vote of 238-184. This Republican-backed measure would amend the Congressional Review Act and allow Congress to overturn, en masse, any federal regulation enacted during the final year of a president’s term. If approved by the Senate and signed into law, the Act could have broad implications for any regulation passed in 2016, including, among many other workplace law regulations, the recordkeeping rule issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and its related anti-retaliation provisions.

A recent rash of attacks on Uber and Lyft drivers raises questions regarding the safety of these gig economy workers. Drivers must often work under dangerous circumstances, including chauffeuring complete strangers, many of whom are intoxicated and thus need a designated driver, to unfamiliar destinations at all times of the day and night.

We’re all scrambling for any hint of impending OSHA changes, but are limited largely to speculation because we do not yet have a new Secretary of Labor or an Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA. Career OSHA management at the DC, Regional and Area Office level simply advise that “it’s business as usual.”

After every public shooting, we discuss how to prevent and better respond to the next active shooter, but each subsequent shooting event suggests we are not acting upon knowledge gained.

I’ve commenced this series because employers and employees seem to make many of the same mistakes over and over again, and technology has create new ways for one to screw up. On some level, most of us are aware that we sometimes say something that we should not have said. An individual may harm a relationship or even worse, one may create evidence of real or perceived unlawful acts.

Before last week, late 1980s pop singer Richard Marx had not made news headlines since, well, the late 1980s. Over 20 years ago, Marx was very well known for his smooth tenor vocals and flowing mane of hair. He hit his peak when his popular song “Right Here Waiting” – the video for which has been viewed over 110 million times on YouTube – made it to number one on the Billboard Top 100 in 1989. Marx was not, however, widely viewed as someone who could teach lessons about best practices in workplace safety (although he did have a 1992 hit called “Hazard”).

With the exception of Immigration enforcement, I doubt that we will see as vigorous an increase in new employment law requirements and enforcement under the Trump Administration as under President Obama’s tenure. Therefore, I’m returning to the practical day to day subjects which continue to generate employer legal and safety claims or to increase profitability and success … depending on whether one in fact utilizes not-so-common sense.

I enjoy December’s “End of the Year” and “Best of the Year” Lists, especially for books, movies, beer and wine. Of course we also see the annual “Worst of the Year” lists, and as a defense-oriented attorney, I’m always fascinated by the annual “Judicial Hellholes” List.

It’s the first of December. Significant changes in workplace safety law take effect today.

OSHA’s new drug testing and anti-retaliation rule, which alters the circumstances when drug testing can be conducted and reemphasizes the protections for employees to report injury and illnesses without fear of retaliation, is now in effect. The final rule, which has likely led to more calls to our firm than any other change we’ve seen this year, contains three key provisions of which employers should be aware.

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