The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) will be working more closely with OSHA in prosecuting companies for environmental crimes that impact worker safety.
In January, a DOJ official told law firm Reed Smith that the department will be formally collaborating with OSHA and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) in pursuing cases related to worker safety and safe working conditions.
On March 7, Attorney General Merrick Garland confirmed the collaboration, stating that the DOJ is working closely with these and other Department of Labor (DOL) agencies to protect fair wages, fair terms of employment and just working conditions.
Worker Endangerment Initiative resurrected?
This basically resurrects the Obama administration’s 2015 Worker Endangerment Initiative, Reed Smith attorney Benjamin Patton said.
That initiative started as a joint effort between the DOJ and DOL to increase the effectiveness of criminal prosecutions of worker endangerment violations.
The 2015 joint effort culminated in a decision to consolidate the authorities to pursue worker safety statutes within the DOJ’s Environmental Crimes Section through direct collaboration with OSHA and MSHA.
Federal prosecutors at the time were told to consider use of environmental offenses to prosecute cases instead of the more limited criminal penalties that come with worker safety statutes.
The thinking was that environmental offenses often occur in conjunction with worker safety crimes, so penalties could be enhanced and deterrence could be increased with a focus on those offenses.
For the new initiative, DOJ wants to “promote a corporate culture that fosters strict attention to law” in recognizing “decisions made in the day-to-day operations of corporations can control the environmental health of the American people.”