OSHA is being prevented from fulfilling its mission.
Today’s post comes from guest author Paul McAndrew, from the Paul McAndrew Law Firm.
In 1970, Congress passed the Occupational Safety & Health Act (the Act), which created the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). Among other things, the Act requires every employer to provide a safe workplace. To help employers reach this goal, OSHA promulgated hundreds of rules in the decade after it was created. OSHA’s rulemaking process has, however, slowed to a trickle since then.
While the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health recently identified over 600 toxic chemicals to which workers are exposed, in the last 16 years OSHA has added only two toxic chemicals to its list of regulated chemicals. This is because Congress, Presidents and the courts have hamstrung OSHA. For example, in March 2001 the Bush Administration and a Republican Congress effectively abolished OSHA’s ergonomics rule, a rule the agency had worked on for many years.
These delays and inactions have caused more than 100,000 avoidable workplace injuries and illnesses.
These delays and inactions have caused more than 100,000 avoidable workplace injuries and illnesses. Workers are being injured and killed by known hazardous circumstances and OSHA can’t act.
Congress and the President need to break this logjam – we need to free OSHA to do its job of safeguarding workers.
Last year, the Department of Labor (DOL) recovered nearly $247 million in back wages for more than 240,000 workers. Since 2009, the DOL has recovered nearly $1.6 billion in back wages for 1.7 million workers. These amounts are just a fraction of the amount owed to workers because of wage theft (employers not paying workers the amount they have legally and rightfully earned), according to Catherine Rampell, an opinion columnist at The Washington Post.
In July, the DOL ordered a private company that had been hired to run the U.S. Senate cafeteria to pay 674 cafeteria workers $1,008,302 in back wages after the DOL discovered that the company misclassified employees, underpaid employees for the time they worked, and failed to pay required health and welfare benefits since 2010.
Congress, as a whole, has taken little to no action to combat wage theft. In March 2016, Senators Patty Murray and Sherrod Brown and Representative Rosa DeLauro introduced the Wage Theft Prevention and Wage Recovery Act to Congress. The bill would require employers to pay full wages owed to an employee, and would also impose civil penalties on employers for violating the Fair Labor Standards Act. The bill does not have a good chance of being passed into law.
If you have questions or concerns about whether you are being paid properly and for all the hours you work, contact the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division at 1-866-487-9243. If you work in North Carolina, you can also contact the North Carolina Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Bureau at 1-800-625-2267.