The DOJ and Labor Department are teaming up under the newly expanded Worker Endangerment Initiative
By Doug Chartier
LAW WEEK COLORADO
In the event of a workplace fatality or injury, employers might not only have to prepare for a workplace safety investigation but also a criminal investigation of worker endangerment and environment-related violations.
On Dec. 17, the U.S. Departments of Justice and Labor announced they would begin working together to investigate and prosecute worker endangerment cases. In her memorandum of understanding, Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates directed federal prosecutors to coordinate with the DOJ’s Environmental Crimes Section to prosecute worker-endangerment violations. Under the new plan, the Labor Department can make direct criminal case referrals to the DOJ to pursue criminal charges that go beyond the penalties available under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.
Each day the U.S. sees an average of 13 workplace fatalities, thousands of injuries and 150 people dying of diseases contracted on the job from exposure to carcinogens and other hazardous substances, according to Yates.
“Given the troubling statistics on workplace deaths and injuries, the Department of Justice is redoubling its efforts to hold accountable those who unlawfully jeopardize workers’ health and safety,” Yates said in her new memo.