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When OSHA Fails to Respond to Workers’ Safety Complaints

February 10, 2021By Niko Pothitakis

Workers have attempted to sue the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for failing to respond to workplace safety complaints. Some of the more recent lawsuits have pertained to failure to provide protection from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Submitting a Complaint to OSHA

One recent lawsuit against OSHA comes from three meatpacking factory workers at Maid-Rite Specialty Foods in Pennsylvania. The workers and their attorneys allege that Maid-Rite failed to provide sufficient personal protective equipment along with social distancing guidelines. The lawsuit, filed in July, also accused Maid-Rite of other safety violations.

The case began in May when OSHA received a complaint regarding conditions at Maid-Rite. The complaint claimed that Maid-Rite failed to provide notification of COVID-19 infections and even offered bonuses and other incentives to workers who didn’t miss any workdays. It also claimed that workers worked within arm’s reach of each other and that the workplace had only supplied them with masks a total of three times.

The day after the organization received the complaint, OSHA’s area director requested that Maid-Rite conduct an internal investigation of the claims. However, the area director made it clear in the request that OSHA didn’t intend to conduct its own investigation based on the complaints.

Suing OSHA for a Lack of Response

As of August, OSHA stated that the complaint was still the subject of an ongoing investigation and that the complaint remained open, but the lack of adequate response led to a lawsuit against the organization.

In the lawsuit, attorneys for the plaintiffs make the argument that the law responsible for creating OSHA in 1970 enables workers to ensure OSHA takes action through the use of litigation against the secretary of the Labor Department.

The attorneys for the three Maid-Rite workers ultimately hope that the case leads OSHA to take action and ensure that workers at Maid-Rite receive the protection they deserve.

Seeking Compliance from OSHA and Others

Since the spread of COVID-19 and the implementation of public health guidelines, OSHA and other organizations and companies have come under fire for a lack of responses and compliance.

Another lawsuit by AFL-CIO that was dismissed in June attempted to get OSHA to enforce stricter safety regulations to protect workers from COVID-19. Walmart, Amazon, and other companies have also faced legal repercussions for failure to provide adequate protection.

These and other cases may help lead to better compliance from OSHA and other organizations.