Archive for August, 2014

Aug 2014

Will a New Executive Order Work to Discourage OSHA Violations?

Massachusetts workers' compensation attorneyPresident Barack Obama has issued a new executive order (EO) called the Fair Pay and Safe Workplace Executive Order. The EO is designed to increase scrutiny on companies that are bidding on federal contracts. One of the goals of the executive order is to encourage these companies to do better at making worker safety a priority. The question is, will it be effective?

While there are many laws in place designed to guarantee safe workplaces and protect employees, companies do not always obey the rules. If you or a loved one is injured or killed on the job, it is important to consult with a workers compensation lawyer who can provide experienced legal help.

New Executive Order Limits Federal Contractors for OSHA Violators

The Fair Pay and Safe Workplace Executive order applies to companies who bid for contracts to provide labor or services to the federal government. These potential federal contractors will now be required to disclose any labor law violations that they have incurred. The disclosure requirement extends to violations of several different worker-protection laws including:

  • The Fair Labor Standards Act
  • The National Labor Relations Act
  • The Occupational Safety and Health Act

The Fair Labor standards Act relates to working hours and pay; the National Labor Relations Act guarantees collective bargaining rights; and the Occupational Safety and Health Act sets standards for workplace safety and worker protections.

The new executive order is going to be implemented on new contracts in stages starting during 2016. All contracts for more than $500,000 in goods, services or a combination thereof will be affected. The rationale behind issuing the EO is that “taxpayer dollars should not reward corporations that break the law.”

Safety News Alert indicates that the contracting officials are going to be considering the most egregious violations when deciding if a business is disqualified from taking on federal contracts. The business will be ineligible only if the violations “rise to the level of a lack of integrity or business ethics.”

Unfortunately, this means that while it may improve conditions somewhat for workers, the executive order does not go very far in actually ensuring that employers follow all OSHA rules and regulations. This is especially true since even companies with serious violations can have the chance to remediate the problems and remain eligible for federal work. A fact sheet on the law says that violators will be “offered the opportunity to receive early guidance on whether those violations are potentially problematic and remedy any problems.”

A Government Accountability Office report in 2010 found that almost 50 percent of the companies that received the 50 largest workplace health and safety penalties between 2005 to 2009 were federal contractors. A Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee report in 2013 also found that 18 companies that received large federal contracts were responsible for 23 out of 100 of the largest initial penalties OSHA imposed for safety violations.

Federal contractors are routinely endangering workers and the best that lawmakers can do is issue an executive order phased in two years from now that will limit only some violators from getting contracts. It does not seem like nearly enough.

Contact a Providence workers’ comp lawyer at the Law Offices of Deborah G. Kohl at 508-677-4900 to schedule your free consultation.