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Heather MacDougall has announced she will be stepping down from the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission at the end of the month, creating concerns about another potential staffing shortage at the review commission.
In August, President Donald Trump appointed Ms. MacDougall as chairwoman of the review commission. She had previously served as a commissioner from April 2, 2014, through April 27, 2017.
But Ms. MacDougall announced her intention to step down at the American Bar Association’s occupational safety and health law committee’s midwinter meeting in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Wednesday, according to conference attendees.
Prior to her appointment to the review commission, Ms. MacDougall had 20 years of experience representing employers on labor, employment and occupational safety and health law matters, most recently with Akerman LLP in West Palm Beach, Florida. In addition, she previously served as chief legal counsel and special adviser to former chairman of the review commission Scott Railton.
Meanwhile, Commissioner Cynthia Attwood’s term expires on April 27, meaning the review commission could once again find itself short of the three commissioners needed to decide cases, which has previously created a backlog of cases, experts say.
Fully staffing the independent federal agency tasked with deciding contested citations and penalties resulting from U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspections is critical as affirmative votes of two commissioners are needed to decide a pending case. Even when there are two commissioners, it can be more difficult to reach an agreement to dispose of a pending case, as both must agree on all of the issues in the matter, experts say.
“If it’s going to be down to one member or even just two, they are not going to be able to hear cases or make decisions that are going to be binding,” said Raymond Perez, of counsel and a labor and employment attorney in the Atlanta office of Jackson Lewis P.C. “It’s going to leave a gap. Either they are not going to take up cases or they’re just going to say, especially if one commissioner is on one side and one’s on the other, ‘we can’t make a decision and we’ll just leave the (administrative law judge’s) decision standing’ and then it will be up to the company on whether it wants to appeal it further up to the appellate court level. It will be a challenge.”
A spokesperson for the review commission could not be immediately reached for comment.
President Donald Trump plans to nominate Heather L. MacDougall to the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, the White House said in a statement Tuesday.