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A U.S. House of Representatives committee has threatened to consider compelling the Labor Department to produce documents related to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s efforts to potentially hold corporate entities jointly responsible for workplace safety violations that occur at the franchise level.
In October 2015, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce asked the Labor Department for information on its efforts to modify its existing multiemployer citation standard to apply joint employer liability. Joint employer status involves situations where two or more business entities share control and supervision of employee activities and an internal OSHA memo last year raised the issue of whether a franchisor and franchisee could both be held liable as employers under the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
However, the department has still not produced all the requested documents more than a year later and many of the documents that have been provided have been redacted, according to a letter the committee sent to Labor Secretary Thomas Perez on Wednesday.
“The Department has provided no legal justifications for these failures,” the letter stated.
Labor department staff recently asked for an in camera review, meaning a non-public review, of the documents to protect the confidentiality of complainants, according to the letter. The committee expressed openness to the proposal so long as it did not frustrate the committee’s oversight, but no agreement has been reached between the department and the committee.
The committee said it would accept documents with names, personal telephone numbers, personal addresses and personal email addresses of individual complainants redacted in what it called a “good faith accommodation” that would obviate the need for an in camera review.
If the department fails to produce the documents by Nov. 4 or improperly redacts the documents it does provide, the committee will be forced to consider a compulsory process to compel production, according to the letter.
The Labor Department declined to comment.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has postponed enforcement of the anti-retaliation provisions of its electronic recordkeeping rule until Dec. 1.