The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) conducted an inspection of your facility. OSHA issues a serious citation to your company for a machine guarding violation, despite the fact the OSHA investigator did not actually observe a plausible infraction. Your company would like to contest the citation because it was not justified. However, your company is not sure if it can afford to pay an attorney to fight the citation. There may be relief. The Equal Access to Justice Act may provide your company with an avenue for having the government foot the bill for your company challenging the citation.
North Carolina law requires employers with a workers’ compensation experience rate modifier (“ERM”) of 1.5 or higher to “establish and carry out a safety and health program to reduce or eliminate hazards and to prevent injuries and illnesses to employees.” Not just any program, however, will comply with the statutory requirements.
Section 105(c)(1) of the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act (“Mine Act”) provides “No person shall discharge or in any manner discriminate against . . . or otherwise interfere with the exercise of the statutory rights of any miner.” 30 U.S.C. § 815(c)(1). In Secretary on behalf of McGary et al. v. Marshall County Coal Co. et al., 38 FMSHRC 2006(Rev. Comm. Aug. 2016) & 40 FMSHRC 261 (Rev. Comm. March 2018), the CEO held a series of “Awareness Meetings” with the work force, specifically requesting that when employees filed anonymous hazard complaints to the Mine Safety and Health Administration (“MSHA”), they report those same conditions to the operator. Complaints were filed with MSHA after these meetings and a hearing was held in front of an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) to determine whether these meetings interfered with miners’ rights.