Worker Endangerment Takes a Criminal Leap
On December 17, 2015, the USDOJ issued its memorandum to the numerous United States Attorneys’ Office announcing its new initiative for OSHA to increase the number of criminal charges in worker endangerment and worker safety. While the initiative is not new (it has been on-going for a number of years now) there are some changes to the program to increase the likelihood of criminal charges (mostly felony charges which is a huge change as most OSHA criminal prosecutions are for misdemeanors).
Under the “new” program, prosecutors are being encouraged to charge Title 18 crimes, which have felony provisions, that frequently occur with OSHA violations. This is really nothing new for a regulatory program as it has occurred with environmental criminal charges for years. You will now start seeing such charges as false statements, witness tampering, and, my two favorite catch-alls, conspiracy and obstruction of justice. On bog difference here, though is that the USDOJ’s Environmental Crimes Section is now authorized to coordinate with the USAO to handle the investigation and prosecution of cases under the OSHA, the federal Mine Safety and Health Act (MSHA), and the Migrant Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act.
The USDOJ and the United States Department of Labor have entered into a separate Memorandum of Understanding to effectuate the relationship – the entire intent is to increase the number of criminal prosecutions and amend to the United States Attorneys’ Manual.
You might recall, OSHA recently announced significant increases in civil penalties in OSHA enforcement cases for 2016 and beyond. The two now go hand-in-hand.
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