Enforcement and Inspection, Regulatory Developments

Department of Labor Issues New Rule on Collection of Civil Penalties

On December 23, the Department of Labor (DOL) issued a final rule on debt collection in an initiative designed to enable the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and other DOL agencies improve their collection of civil penalties (85 FR 83816).

Money, fines, citations, penalties

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As part of the broader DOL efforts, OSHA will use a series of three penalty payment letters to be sent seven, 30, and 60 days after an establishment fails to make timely payment of a penalty based on a final order. OSHA also will contact establishments by phone 14 days after the payment comes due.

“Expediting the notifications to employers who have not paid OSHA fines will work to improve OSHA’s enforcement presence,” Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health Loren Sweatt said in an agency statement.

“At the conclusion of an OSHA inspection where a final order is issued, employers must abate hazards to protect workers and pay assessed civil monetary penalties,” Sweatt said.

The Labor Department’s final rule encourages debt collection efforts to proceed promptly so that any uncollected debt may be referred to the Department of Justice in a timely manner, if necessary.

“These steps will enhance the effectiveness of OSHA’s enforcement program,” U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia said in the agency’s statement. “The Department will ensure that firms with safety and health violations are held accountable and pay their debts to the United States Government.”

“By getting demand letters out with quicker action, the Department will maximize collections of delinquent debts owed to the Government,” the department’s Chief Financial Officer James Williams added.

OSHA will place a business on a priority list for further inspection if the establishment fails to make a civil monetary penalty payment from an inspection resulting in a citation and is not on an affordable payment plan.

OSHA’s Directorate of Administrative Programs (DAP) will generate a monthly list of establishments that have delinquent debts–those not paid by 30 calendar days after their due date. Employers on a payment plan will be screened out of the monthly list. DAP will provide its list of delinquent establishments to OSHA Regional Offices, which will distribute the lists to Area Offices.

OSHA’s Area Offices will use the list of employers with overdue penalties in developing programmed inspection lists in its administration of existing inspection and enforcement programs. Area Offices will consult the delinquent employers’ list as they draw up programmed inspection lists under existing National Emphasis Programs, Regional Emphasis Programs, or Local Emphasis Programs.

For example, when an employer with overdue fines would otherwise fit the criteria of the special emphasis program, area offices will include that employer on the programmed inspection master list. If an employer with overdue fines would not otherwise fit the criteria of the special emphasis program, area offices instead will place the employer on a separate list to be utilized for additional programmed inspections.

Employers who pay their penalties by their due date will not receive the new demand letters or phone call or be included on the delinquent employers lists.