Volume 51, Issue 2 - February 2016


DOJ, DOL Bolster Efforts to Punish Workplace Safety Violators

Over the past two years, the Department of Labor (DOL) has scrutinized all sectors, including the glazing and construction industries. The federal government’s Departments of Justice and Labor have put an even tighter microscope on the issue.

The departments announced in December they have expanded their “Worker Endangerment Initiative to Address Environmental and Worker Safety Violations.” According to the Department of Justice (DOJ), under the new plan, its Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD) and the U.S. Attorneys’ offices will work with the DOL’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Mine Safety and Health Administration and Wage and Hour Division to investigate and prosecute worker endangerment violations.

In 2014, the departments began collaborating on a joint effort to increase the frequency and effectiveness of criminal prosecutions of worker endangerment violations. The departments decided to consolidate the authorities to pursue worker safety statutes within the ENRD’s Environmental Crimes Section.

According to the DOJ, the worker safety statutes generally provide for only misdemeanor penalties. However, prosecutors have now been encouraged to consider utilizing Title 18 and environmental offenses, which often occur in conjunction with worker safety crimes, to enhance penalties and increase deterrence.

In addition, the ENRD has also increased efforts to pursue civil cases involving worker safety violations under statutes such as the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the Toxic Substances Control Act.

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