The new episode of Employment Law This Week offers a year-end roundup of the biggest employment, workforce, and management issues in 2016:

  • Impact of the Defend Trade Secrets Act
  • States Called to Ban Non-Compete Agreements
  • Paid Sick Leave Laws Expand
  • Transgender Employment Law
  • Uncertainty Over the DOL’s Overtime Rule and Salary Thresholds
  • NLRB Addresses Joint Employment
  • NLRB Rules on Union Organizing

Watch the episode below and read EBG’s Take 5 newsletter, “Top Five Employment, Labor & Workforce Management Issues of 2016.”

Employers Under the Microscope: Is Change on the Horizon?

When: Tuesday, October 18, 2016 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Where: New York Hilton Midtown, 1335 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019

Epstein Becker Green’s Annual Workforce Management Briefing will focus on the latest developments in labor and employment law, including:

  • Latest Developments from the NLRB
  • Attracting and Retaining a Diverse Workforce
  • ADA Website Compliance
  • Trade Secrets and Non-Competes
  • Managing and Administering Leave Policies
  • New Overtime Rules
  • Workplace Violence and Active-Shooter Situations
  • Recordings in the Workplace
  • Instilling Corporate Ethics

This year, we welcome Marc Freedman and Jim Plunkett from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Marc and Jim will speak at the first plenary session on the latest developments in Washington, D.C., that impact employers nationwide.

We are also excited to have Dr. David Weil, Administrator of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division, serve as the guest speaker at the second plenary session. David will discuss the areas on which the Wage and Hour Division is focusing, including the new overtime rules.

In addition to workshop sessions led by attorneys at Epstein Becker Green – including some contributors to this blog! – we are also looking forward to hearing from our keynote speaker, Former New York City Police Commissioner William J. Bratton.

View the full briefing agenda here.

Visit the briefing website for more information and to register, and contact Sylwia Faszczewska or Elizabeth Gannon with questions. Seating is limited.

Valerie Butera
Valerie Butera

In a recently updated directive to Regional Administrators and State Plan Designees from Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, the categories of small businesses exempt from programmed health and safety inspections changed.

This exemption applies to workplaces with 10 or fewer workers who perform work in industries OSHA deems low hazard.  OSHA identifies low hazard industries by studying the most recent results of mandatory surveys sent to employers in countless industries by the Bureau of Labor Statistics which collect information about how often employees were unable to perform their normal job duties because of workplace injuries or illnesses.  Those industries with the lowest numbers are included in the list.

The change to the list became effective on January 29, 2016, and will remain in effect until updated, which typically happens at the beginning of each year.

Newly Exempt Industries

There are over 400 industries included in the list of exempt small businesses.  Among the industries newly exempt from inspections are:

  • Electrical contractors and wiring installation contractors
  • Soybean and other oilseed processing
  • Inorganic chemical manufacturing
  • A number of retail industries including boat dealers, motorcycle dealers, floor covering stores, electronics stores, meat markets, fish and seafood markets, tobacco stores and vending machines
  • Farm product warehousing and storing
  • Residential and Nonresidential property managers
  • Marinas
  • Full-service restaurants, cafeterias, buffets and snack bars

Industries No Longer Exempt

Many of the industries deemed exempt in the last revision of this list no longer enjoy an exemption from inspections.  A sampling of the industries no longer included in the list includes:

  • Heavy and civil engineering construction
  • Retail bakeries
  • Industrial gas manufacturing
  • Medicinal and botanical manufacturing
  • Retailers including RV dealers, household appliance stores, all manner of electronics and computer stores, paint and wallpaper stores, fruit and vegetable markets, and beer, wine and liquor stores
  • Investment and securities dealing, securities brokerage, commodity contracts dealing, and commodity contracts brokerage
  • Pension funds, health and welfare funds, and other insurance funds
  • Veterinary services

Employers should be mindful that even if they have 10 or fewer employees performing work in an exempt industry they are still at risk of an OSHA inspection if employees suffer a work-related fatality or severe injury (see related story) or an employee makes a complaint to OSHA.

On June 10, 2014, Epstein Becker Green’s national OSHA Practice Group presented a webinar regarding OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP). The SVEP is an OSHA enforcement program intended by OSHA to direct its enforcement resources at employers whom OSHA believes are “indifferent to their OSH Act obligations.”

The webinar covered:

  • What the SVEP is;
  • How and when employers “qualify” into it;
  • What the consequences are for doing so;
  • Interesting data and trends about the SVEP; and
  • Tips to help employers avoid this fate.

This webinar was the second part in a five-part OSHA webinar series for employers facing the daunting task of complying with OSHA’s numerous federal and state occupational safety and health standards and regulations.  Read more about the webinar series, or click here to register for the remaining briefings.

As was mentioned during the webinar, these briefings will all be recorded, and the recording and slides from the Severe Violator Enforcement Program webinar are now available.  To download either or both, click here, scroll to the bottom of the page, insert the password “OSHA2” in the box, and click “Go.”  Links to a PDF of the slides and to the full recording of the webinar will appear at the bottom of the page.

By Amanda R. Strainis-Walker

OSHA recently launched a Regional Emphasis Program (REP) that will focus enforcement resources on employers operating in the automotive supply manufacturing industry.  This new Auto Supply Manufacturers enforcement program will target manufacturers in the southeast that supply engines, airbags, trim, or any other automotive products.  The specific geographic areas covered by the inspection program include at least Georgia, Mississippi, and Alabama.

“Hazards associated with the Auto Parts Supplier Industry that are the focus of this REP continue to be the source of serious injuries, including amputations, and deaths to employees,” OSHA explained in the REP.  “The objective of this REP is to reduce employee exposures to safety related hazards in the Automotive Parts Supplier Industry.”

As a result of the REP, most automotive supply manufactures located in the Southeast can expect a comprehensive, wall-to-wall OSHA inspection within the next two years.  The only way these automotive supply manufacturers can avoid such an inspection is if they were already the subject of a comprehensive OSHA inspection during the preceding two years, or if they were mistakenly identified as an automotive supply manufacturer under NAICS classification code –  3663XX.

OSHA Area Offices have started to send letters notifying automotive supply manufacturers about the REP, as well as common causes of occupational injuries in the industry—machine guarding, lockout/tagout (LOTO), and electrical hazards.  These topics will also be the primary focus of inspections under the enforcement program.  The automotive supply manufacturers receiving the letter will be at the beginning of the inspection cycle, and should take steps now to prepare for OSHA’s knock on the door.

Recommended Steps to Prepare:

  1. Ensure injury and illness recordkeeping forms are current, accurate, and ready to produce to OSHA.
  2. Review written programs to confirm they are up-to-date, compliant, and consistent with what is happening on the plant floor.  Focus on LO/TO, including the requirement to conduct annual LO/TO certifications.
  3. Certify employee training is current, and fill in any gaps as needed.
  4. Conduct regular walkthrough inspections to affirm employees are following company policies and training.
  5. Consider having a third-party safety audit conduct conducted, preferably under the protection of the attorney-client privilege.

Here is a copy of the Auto Parts Industry Emphasis Program directive.  Please contact us with questions about this new emphasis program.

Last month, we published an article about OSHA’s proposed new Injury and Illness Recordkeeping and Reporting rule that would create a minefield for hundreds of thousands of employers nationwide.  In a January 6, 2014 press release, OSHA announced that it would extend the comment period for this proposed rule by 30 days in response to a request from the National Association of Home Builders (“NAHB”).  NAHB made the request because the rulemaking overlaps with the proposed crystalline silica rulemaking and it needed more time to disseminate the relevant information to its members and coordinate responses.  March 8, 2014 is now the deadline by which all interested parties must submit comments

on the injury and illness recordkeeping and reporting rule, replacing the original deadline of February 8, 2014.  For planning purposes, note that the new comment deadline is on a Saturday (likely because OSHA was looking at a 2013 calendar when setting it).

OSHA’s proposed rule lays out several major changes, including requiring employers to electronically submit to OSHA their injury and illness records, whereas the current rule require employers to maintain these records internally, and to share them only in very limited circumstances.  That is hardly the most troublesome element of the proposed new rule, however.  OSHA also intends now to broadcast the injury and illness information on a public website, for no legitimate safety reason.  Indeed, OSHA has no reason to advertise employers’ injury and illness information other than for public shaming.  Employers, therefore, are rightfully concerned about the rule.

Employers and trade associations have expressed a host of different concerns about the proposal to publicize injury and illness records:

  1. Employers fear that publicized injury and illness records will be mischaracterized, and employers’ public perceptions will be unjustly skewed.  Without context as to how the injuries actually occurred and what safety measures the employer had implemented to prevent workplace injuries, the public could jump to incorrect and harmful conclusions about the employer.
  2. Unions will almost certainly use the out-of-context injury and illness information to mislead employees to facilitate organizing campaigns or to advance their interests in contract negotiations.
  3. The publication of injury data will likely discourage some employers from recording all injuries and illnesses, driving the precise opposite result OSHA was hoping to achieve.
  4. Publication of injury and illness records may also lead to disclosure of employers’ proprietary information as well as private health information of injured employees.
  5. OSHA’s publication of injury and illness records deliberately places fault for all injuries upon the employer, despite the express understanding during the rulemaking for the original Recordkeeping rule that the act of recording workplace injuries should not create any implication of fault.  OSHA has recognized that many injuries and illnesses caused in the workplace are outside employers’ control.  This proposal to publish the injury information, however, implies that all recorded injuries were the fault of the employer, because OSHA’s sole motivation for publishing the information is to hold employers accountable in the eyes of the public.

Employers have also presented concerns about the cost and burden of actually submitting the injury and illness information to OSHA electronically, as set forth in the proposed rule.  The literature included with the proposed rule suggests that OSHA assumes a majority of employers already keep their injury and illness records electronically, so submission to OSHA should be doable without much extra time or expense.  Most employers, however, particularly small businesses, still keep injury records in hard copy.  Therefore, the time and expense to comply with the new rule will be far greater than predicted by OSHA, especially if the employer has 250 or more employees and, therefore, must submit records to OSHA four times every year. Continue Reading OSHA Extends Comment Period for Controversial Injury and Illness Recordkeeping Rule

Last month, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) put out a press release announcing a proposed new rule that would significantly increase employers’ injury and illness recordkeeping and reporting responsibilities.  OSHA first submitted its proposal to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (“OIRA”) two years ago, on November 22, 2011, but OIRA did not approve the proposed rule to advance through the rulemaking process until last month.

In essence, the proposed rule would transform the current Recordkeeping framework in which employers’ records of workplace injuries remained private to the employer unless: (i) OSHA requests them during an inspection at the workplace; or (ii) the employer receives a rare request for the recordkeeping data from OSHA or the Bureau of Labor Statistics (“BLS”) for survey purposes.

Under the proposed rule, employers’ injury and illness data will become an open book, requiring the collection of larger amounts of data on work-related injuries and illnesses, as well as making much of that information public.  Dr. David Michaels, the Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, has expressed publicly that “[t]his is not an enforcement initiative,” but employers are rightfully concerned about the ramifications of this new proposed rule.

OSHA’s Current Reporting Practices

Currently, OSHA compels employers to report a workplace injury or illness to OSHA or to produce injury and illness recordkeeping data to OSHA or the BLS in only four circumstances:

  1. the injury or illness results in death or the overnight hospitalization for more than observation of three or more employees;
  2. the recordkeeping data (e.g., OSHA 300 logs, 300A Annual Summaries, or 301 incident reports) is requested or subpoenaed during an enforcement inspection by OSHA at the employer’s workplace;
  3. the recordkeeping data is requested pursuant to OSHA’s Data Initiative Survey specific to certain industries with high rates of occupational injuries and illnesses; and
  4. recordkeeping forms are requested by BLS for its Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses, for which a select few representative employers are requested to participate each year.

In conjunction with the new rulemaking, OSHA claims that these four outlets for the Department of Labor to acquire injury and illness data are insufficient because the information is generally not collected timely, is too limited in scope, and is often not establishment-specific.  OSHA believes that the proposed rule, detailed below, would resolve these so-called insufficiencies.

Provisions of the Proposed Rule

OSHA’s new Recordkeeping rule proposal contains three major provisions:

  1. Requirements for Large Employers (250+ Employees):  If implemented, the new rule will require employers who had 250 or more workers (including full-time, part-time, temporary, and seasonal workers) at peak employment during the prior calendar year to submit to OSHA every quarter the individual entries on their OSHA 300 Logs and the information entered on each OSHA 301 Incident Report.  OSHA would then post the data on its public website after redacting only injured employees’ identifying information.  Employers will submit this information through a secure website using direct data entry into a template form or by uploading electronic documents already maintained by the employer.  Approximately 38,000 private employers nationwide would be covered by this provision, and OSHA predicts the cost to each of these employers would be only approximately $183 per year.
  2. Requirements for Small Employers (20+ Employees):  The proposed rule would also require employers with 20 or more workers in designated industries to submit information electronically from their 300A Annual Summary forms to OSHA, which OSHA also intends to publicize.  Employers will submit this information through the same secure website using direct data entry or through a batch file upload.  This portion of the proposed rule projects to impact approximately 441,000 employer establishments, and OSHA estimates the cost at only approximately $9 per employer per year.
  3. Requirements for All Employers:  Under the proposed rule, any employer who receives notification of a request from OSHA must submit information from its injury and illness records (i.e., 300 Logs, 301 forms, and 300A Annual Summaries) for the time periods specified in OSHA’s notification.  This provision only requires submission after notification by OSHA.  Through this provision, OSHA intends to collect data specific to certain industries or hazards.

Dr. Michaels has stated that the information collected from employers through these three data-collection provisions will be used to help employers better identify and eliminate hazards, determine where OSHA’s consultation and educational resources should be focused, and direct inspection priorities.  OSHA has also suggested that the proposed rule imposes only a slight burden on employers, because those subject to the proposed rule are already required to record the information now being demanded for production.

We anticipate, however, that the new reporting requirements and publication of employers’ records as set forth in the proposed rule will significantly increase the burden on employers, both in man hours and cost, and will trigger significant unexpected implications for the regulated community.

Top 5 Impacts to Industry From the Proposed Recordkeeping Rule

  1. Unforeseen (Grossly Underestimated) Costs of Compliance:  We are deeply concerned about the inaccuracy of OSHA’s cost estimates around this rule.  In addition to the burdensome steps outlined in the rule, the proposed rule will likely require employers to take additional steps outside of those described by OSHA to comply.  For instance, Continue Reading OSHA Proposes Intrusive and Burdensome New Injury & Illness Recordkeeping and Reporting Rule

On Tuesday, December 3, 2013, in conjunction with the Grain Journal, Eric J. Conn, Head of the national OSHA Practice Group at Epstein Becker & Green, delivered a webinar focused on the OSHA enforcement landscape related to work on top of rolling stock (specifically railcars) at grain elevator facilities.  The webinar, including a Q&A session, was recorded, and the Grain Journal has made the recording available online.  The recording includes an audio broadcast with a video of the accompanying PowerPoint presentation.

Here is a link to the recording of the Railcar Fall Protection webinar and a link to the slides from the briefing.

The December 3rd webinar focused on the complex circumstances that require employees to work on top of railcars at grain elevators, and how OSHA has historically and is presently addressing those circumstances through enforcement.  Whether it’s prepping cars down track away from the elevator, helping to guide a load out spout into a railcar, or allowing state or federal grain inspectors access to railcars for stowage inspections and sampling, there are numerous work activities that require employees to stand on and walk between the tops of railcars. With potentially miles of track where work may need to be done on top of the railcars, there often is no feasible way to provide anchor points to which employees can tie off fall protection over the tracks.  To complicate matters more, OSHA’s requirements regarding Railcar Fall Protection are among the most confusing and inconsistently enforced.  The webinar covered:

  • The history of OSHA enforcement as it relates to rolling stock fall protection, from the 1996 “Miles Memo” to the most recent court decisions upholding the Miles Memo;
  • OSHA’s active enforcement agenda that includes a targeting of railcar fall protection issues in the grain industry;
  • OSHA’s ongoing Walking & Working Surfaces rulemaking activity, which may introduce new railcar fall protection requirements; and
  • Recommendations for how best to avoid OSHA citations while performing work on railcars.

This was the second in a series of OSHA law related webinars Mr. Conn will be delivering for the grain industry in conjunction with Grain Journal.  The first webinar in the series, presented in September 2013,  was entitled “New OSHA Sweep Auger Enforcement Policies… How They Will Affect You.”  Here is a link to the OSHA / Sweep Auger webinar recording.

By Alka N. Ramchandani and Michael D. Thompson

In recent years, Cal-OSHA has taken an aggressive stance against exposing employees to potential heat illness, often citing employers and proposing significant penalties for failing to provide to employees who work in high heat conditions with adequate drinking water, shade, training, and/or cool-down periods.  Furthermore, as noted by the California Supreme Court in Brinker v. Superior Court, monetary remedies for the denial of meal and rest breaks “engendered a wave of wage and hour class action litigation” when added to the California Labor Code more than a decade ago.

The California Legislature has brought these two trends together by  amending California Labor Code Section 226.7 to include penalties for employers’ failing to provide “Cool Down Recovery Periods” (“CDRPs”) to prevent heat exhaustion or stroke.  The requirement to provide CDRPs kicks in January 1, 2014, after which California employers will be required to pay a wage premium for failing to provide CDRPs to employees.  This premium pay is akin to the premium pay already required for violations of California’s meal period and rest break laws.  The amendment is sure to trigger substantial litigation in California, and cross over into Cal/OSHA enforcement as well.

California’s Heat Illness Prevention Statute

California employers have long been aware of California’s Heat Illness Prevention statute, Title 8 Section 3395(d), which obligates employers to provide training and access to shade and adequate drinking water for employees who work outdoors in high heat conditions.  Pursuant to the Heat Illness statute, employers have also been required to maintain one or more shaded areas, with either open-air ventilation, forced ventilation, or forced cooling, and employers are required to allow employee access and encourage employees to access these shaded or cooled areas for cool down periods of no less than five minutes or as employees feel the need to do so.  Historical Cal-OSHA Board decisions and Standard Board committee notes have refused to characterize these cool down periods as work-free breaks; i.e., employers may require employees to continue working during periods when they are in shade or air conditioned locations.

Although heat illness has been an enforcement focus across the country, Cal-OSHA is the only OSHA scheme that has its own Heat Illness specific standard.  While federal OSHA has increased its use of the General Duty Clause to cite heat illness issues, Cal-OSHA has led the way in this enforcement space.

California Labor Code Section 226.7

Pursuant to California Labor Code section 226.7, employers are already required to pay a penalty of one hour of pay for any failure to provide a non-exempt employee with a meal period and an additional hour of pay for any failure to provide a non-exempt employee with a rest break.  This law has produced numerous class action lawsuits throughout California.  Under the recent CDRP amendment, any failure to provide a cool down recovery period will obligate the employer to pay the employee one additional hour of pay at the employee’s regular rate of compensation for each workday that a recovery period is not provided.  Employers now face more than just serious citations under Section 3395(d), but also cited or sued by employees (or classes of employees) for failure to provide CDRPs pursuant to California Labor Code Section 226.7.

Pursuant to this statute, California employers have suffered through a barrage of wage and hour single plaintiff and class action lawsuits related to California’s meal and rest break requirements under Section 226.7.  This recent history has shown that compliance with these work-free periods is difficult, and demonstrating compliance is even more so.  More importantly, the potential penalties and civil judgments are extremely high.

The Amended Statute

On October 10, 2013, that changed.  The California Legislature joined Cal-OSHA’s cause and signed a new bill into effect amending California Labor Code Section 226.7 to include penalties for failure to provide CDRPs.  Section 226.7 provides in pertinent part:

If an employer fails to provide an employee a meal or rest or recovery period in accordance with a state law, including, but not limited to, an applicable statute or applicable regulation, standard, or order of the Industrial Welfare Commission, the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board, or the Division of Occupational Safety and Health, the employer shall pay the employee one additional hour of pay at the employee’s regular rate of compensation for each workday that the meal or rest or recovery period is not provided. Continue Reading New California Law Requires Employers to Provide “Cool-Down Recovery Periods”

On Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 3 PM (Eastern) / 2 PM (Central), Eric J. Conn, Head of the national OSHA Practice Group at Epstein Becker & Green will conduct a free webinar focused on OSHA’s enforcement landscape as it relates to work on top of rolling stock (specifically railcars) at grain elevator facilities.  This is the second in a series of OSHA law related webinars for the grain industry in conjunction with Grain Journal.

Whether it’s prepping cars down track away from the elevator, helping to guide a load out spout into a railcar, or allowing state or federal grain inspectors access to railcars for stowage inspections and sampling, there are numerous work activities
that require employees to stand on and walk between the tops of railcars.  With potentially miles of track where work may need to be done on top of the railcars, there often is no feasible way to provide anchor points to which employees can tie off fall protection over the tracks.

To complicate matters more, OSHA’s requirements regarding Railcar Fall Protection are among the most confusing and inconsistently enforced.  So what does the law require and how is OSHA treating this issue from an enforcement standpoint?  Get the answers to these questions and more during this webinar.  The webinar will:

  • Describe the history of OSHA enforcement as it relates to rolling stock fall protection, from the 1996 “Miles Memo” to the most recent court decisions upholding the Miles Memo;
  • Review OSHA’s active enforcement agenda that includes a targeting of railcar fall protection issues in the grain industry;
  • Discuss OSHA’s ongoing Walking & Working Surfaces rulemaking activity, which may introduce new railcar fall protection requirements; and
  • Forecast where we think OSHA is heading next, and what that means for your operations.

This is an audio broadcast with a live powerpoint presentation.  Audio will be available through your computer speakers or your telephone.  High-speed internet is required for this event.

To register for free, click here.

Any questions, call Grain Journal’s Webinar Manager Greg Sullivan at 800-728-7511.