Nineteen attorneys general filed an amicus brief in Allstates Refractory Contractors LLC v. Walsh, a case that challenges OSHA’s ability to issue permanent safety standards, arguing it’s unconstitutional.
The attorneys general argue that OSHA’s permanent safety standards ensure workplace safety and are critical to their states’ own efforts to protect workers, according to law firm Cozen O’Connor.
Congress didn’t exceed federal nondelegation principles when it authorized OSHA to create and enforce safety standards that are “reasonably necessary or appropriate to provide safe or healthful employment and places of employment” under the agency, the attorneys general argue.
Company filed lawsuit September 2022
This case was brought before the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Western Division in September 2022 by Allstates Refractory Contractors LLC, a general contractor that provides furnace services to glass, metal, and petrochemical facilities. The case is currently on appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.
Allstates has four full-time employees, but hires up to 100 part-time employees, depending on the job. In its lawsuit against OSHA, the company states that it “prides itself on its commitment to worker safety” and spends “thousands” of dollars on training employees and complying with OSHA safety standards.
However, in 2019 Allstates was cited for multiple safety violations, including a serious violation regarding an employee who was injured when a catwalk brace broke, causing the catwalk to fall. Allstates didn’t fight the citation, and instead settled with OSHA for $5,967.
‘OSHA authority too broad, abusive, burdensome’
In its lawsuit, the company argues that:
- OSHA’s authority to issue safety standards under the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act is unconstitutionally broad
- OSHA imposes penalties in a way that is arbitrary and abusive, and
- a number of OSHA standards are unnecessarily burdensome or dangerous.
Allstates also claims that the federal nondelegation doctrine prohibits OSHA from promulgating permanent safety standards. This doctrine is based on the principle that Congress can’t delegate its legislative powers to other entities.
The Ohio court dismissed the lawsuit finding there was “no binding or persuasive authority supporting (Allstates’s) argument” and the company’s argument “falls short of demonstrating actual success on the merits.” Ultimately, the court found that OSHA’s discretion is sufficiently limited.
‘If successful, basic worker safeguards wouldn’t be required’
The attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Washington filed the amicus brief asking the Sixth Circuit to affirm the Ohio court’s decision.
They argue that if the company’s lawsuit succeeds, it would mean that “OSHA would not be able to establish or enforce any safety standards, including the rules that require companies to take basic safeguards.”
The lawsuit “threatens the stability of the statutory regime under which OSHA operates, and in doing so jeopardizes amici states’ ability to ensure the safety of workers in their jurisdictions.”
According to the attorneys general, “The district court’s decision was consistent with both settled legal principles and common sense: (The company’s) position would be devastating both to workers throughout the United States and to amici states, all of which depend on OSHA to promulgate and enforce safety standards in a wide range of industries.”