More Heat On Federal Contractors With OSHA and Wage-Hour Violations.

senatelabor Hopefully you do not need further motivation to maintain an effective workplace safety culture; however, Senator Labor Chair Tom Harkins’ December 11, 2013 Report may serve as additional motivation.  In the 4” thick Report, “Acting Responsibly? Federal Contractors Frequently Put Workers’ Lives And Livelihoods At Risk,” the writers provide detailed information of citations and wage claims against numerous Federal contractors (by name).  The appendices to the Report contain detailed analysis of the Top 100 OSHA Violations and Penalties and the Top 100 Wage Hour Division Back Wage Payments for 2007 through 2012.

  • The Report concludes that 18 Federal Contractors were recipients of one of the largest 100 penalties issued by OSHA, and that almost one-half of the total initially assessed for OSHA violations were against companies holding Federal contracts in 2012.
  • The Report also claims that 42 American Workers died during this period “as a result of OSHA violations by companies holding Federal contracts in 2012.”  This conclusion is a bit of a jump because citations issued by OSHA after a fatality investigation are often unrelated to the fatality itself.
  • Thirty-two Federal contractors received back wage assessments among the largest 100 issued by the Wage and Hour Division between 2007 and 2012.
  • Thirty-five of these companies allegedly violated both wage and safety laws.
  • The 49 Federal contractors responsible for large violations of Federal Labor Laws were cited for 1,776 separate violations and paid $196 million n penalties and assessments.

The Report angrily complains that in fiscal year 2012 “these same companies were awarded $81 billion in taxpayer dollars.”

The Report makes a number of recommendations which can be summed up as putting in procedures to better share and publicize information about Federal contractors and to take action against contractors violating safety and wage laws.

While some of the cited violations may well represent egregious behavior or a determination to cut corners on safety, one wonders if some of these violations simply resulted from large companies who experienced difficulty in maintaining an effective safety culture at numerous locations and job sites.  Regardless of the reasons, all employers would do well to recognize this Administration’s desire to bring together and publicize more information about employer alleged misconduct.  One paragraph suggests a certain amount of bias against the private sector:

The Federal government is not required to contract with the private sector.  Indeed, many of the functions that private contractors carry out for the government could be done equally well or better by government employees.  But when the government does solicit work from the private sector, it should use taxpayer dollars in a way that promotes compliance with Federal law and improves the quality of life for working Americans.

One sort of gets the sense that the sponsors are looking for an excuse to de-privatize some of this work.  So check the list for your name and take steps to get off of it or to stay off it.  I’d take this naughty or nice list seriously this Christmas.

Howard

About mavity2012

I am a Senior Partner operating out of the Atlanta office of Fisher & Phillips LLP, one of the Nation’s oldest and largest management employment and labor firms. My practice is national and keeps me on the road or in one of our 28 offices about 50 percent of the time. I created and co-chair the Firm's Workplace Safety and Catastrophe Management Practice Group. I have almost 29 years of experience as a labor lawyer, but rely even more heavily on the experience I gained in working in my family's various businesses, and through dealing with practical client issues. Employers tell me that they seldom meet an attorney who delivers on his promise to provide practical guidance and to be a business partner. As a result, some executives probably use different terms than “practical” to describe my fellow travelers in the profession. I don't enjoy the luxury of being impractical because I spend much of my time on shop floors and construction sites dealing with safety, union and related issues which are driven by real world processes and the need to protect and get the most out of one's most important business assets ... its employees. That's one of the reasons that I view safety compliance as a way to also manage problem employees, reduce litigation and develop the type of work environment that makes unions unnecessary. Starting out dealing with union-management challenges and a stint in the NLRB have better equipped me to see the interrelationship of legal and workplace factors. I am proud also of my experience at Fisher & Phillips, where providing “practical advice” is second only to legal excellence among the Firm’s values. Our website lists me as having provided counsel for over 225 occasions of union activity, guided unionized companies, and as having managed approximately 450 OSHA fatality cases in construction and general industry, ranging from dust explosions to building collapses, in virtually every state. I have coordinated complex inspections involving multi-employer sites, corporate-wide compliance, and issues involving criminal referral. As a full labor lawyer, I oversee audits of corporate labor, HR, and safety compliance. I have responded to virtually every type of day-to-day workplace inquiry, and have handled cases before the EEOC, OFCCP, NLRB, and numerous other state and federal agencies. At F & P, all of us seek to spot issues and then rely upon attorneys in the Firm who concentrate on those areas. No tunnel vision. I teach or speak around 50 times per year to business associations, bar and professional groups, and to individual businesses. I serve on safety committees at three states’ AGC Chapters, teach at the AGC ASMTC
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