DOJ to Work with DOL on Prosecution of Worker Safety Violations
The Departments of Justice and Labor (DOJ and DOL) recently announced a new plan to more effectively prosecute crimes that put the lives and health of workers at risk. DOJ’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices will work with DOL’s OSHA, MSHA, and Wage and Hour Division to investigate and prosecute worker endangerment violations. A Dec. 17 memo to all U.S. attorneys from the deputy attorney general urges federal prosecutors to work with the Environmental Crimes Section to pursue worker endangerment violations. Since worker safety statutes generally provide for only misdemeanor penalties, the new plan encourages prosecutors to enhance penalties and increase deterrence by using Title 18, the criminal and penal code of the federal government, and environmental offenses, which, according to DOJ, often occur in conjunction with worker safety crimes. “Prosecutors can make enforcement meaningful by charging other serious offenses that often occur in association with OSH Act violations—including false statements, obstruction of justice, witness tampering, conspiracy, and environmental and endangerment crimes,” the memo reads. “With penalties ranging from 5 to 20 years' incarceration, plus significant fines, these felony provisions provide additional important tools to deter and punish workplace safety crimes.” Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA David Michaels, PhD, MPH, said that his agency looks forward to working with the Environment and Natural Resources Division. “While most employers try to do the right thing, we know that strong sanctions are the best tool to ensure that low-road employers comply with the law and protect workers’ lives,” Michaels said. “More frequent and effective prosecution of these crimes will send a strong message to those employers who fail to provide a safe workplace for their employees.” See more information on DOJ’s website.