DC Appeals Court Rejects OSHA Citations for Recordkeeping Violations

Employers cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for failing to keep accurate injury or illness logs may have obtained a reprieve.

Earlier this month, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ruled in Secretary of Labor v. AKM LLC d/b/a Volks Constructors that OSHA’s practice of citing employers for not recording injuries up to five years after the injuries occurred must end.

For your reference, three takeaways from the Court of Appeals decision:

1. There is a strict six-month limitation for prosecuting employers who failed to record injuries:

“The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has made clear that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the U.S. Department of Labor (OSHA) may no longer prosecute employers for failing to record injuries where the failure occurred more than six months previously, i.e., after the statute of limitations has run. (D.C. Circuit Disapproves of Continuing-Violation Theory in OSHA Recordkeeping Cases by McDermott Will & Emery)

2. The ruling effectively ends OSHA’s practice of treating recordkeeping infringements as “continued violations:”

“… the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the U.S. Department of Labor’s argument that an employer’s failure to record employee injuries and illnesses represented ‘continuing violations’ of the OSH Act that, until corrected, prohibited the six-month statute of limitations from expiring.” (OSHA Record-Keeping Violations Subject to 6-Month Statute of Limitations by Matt Bouchard)

3. Employers should not assume a broader rejection of OSHA standards:

“Employers should not, however, assume that this ruling will similarly bar alleged violations of other OSHA standards. This decision is limited by the fact that ‘the occurrence’ of failing to record an individual recordkeeping case is a discrete act under the terms of the applicable recordkeeping regulation. Although the same argument could be made under another OSHA Standard, it would depend on whether that Standard defined the employer’s obligation as a comparable discrete act.” (District of Columbia Court of Appeals Rules Against OSHA in Recordkeeping Case by Constangy, Brooks & Smith, LLP)

Related Reading:

Find more Labor & Employment Law updates on JD Supra>>