Employee Health and Safety — OSHA and similar state laws
Hunton & Williams works with clients to develop strategies to enhance workplace safety and to avoid OSHA violations. We have extensive experience in the development, implementation and auditing of occupational safety and health programs. Our advice practice includes the development, implementation and auditing of occupational safety and health compliance programs for employers; drafting of policies with respect to obligations under OSHA; development and review of employee safety manuals and procedures; preparation of emergency response action plans for employers; and advising employers regarding OSHA obligations and appropriate and defensible disciplinary actions when employees violate safety rules. In addition, our attorneys conduct frequent seminars for managers and employees on safety and health compliance, infectious disease management and pandemic/disaster preparedness. We also have assisted our clients with efforts to be recognized under OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Programs and/or to achieve compliance with international safety standards. We are assisted in this work by a number of safety consultants with whom we have worked for years. We also have extensive experience in whistleblower cases, including those where an employee alleges adverse employment action resulting from protected conduct under OSHA.
We focus first on preventing OSHA compliance issues, but we also have vast experience defending clients facing citations by both state and federal OSHA. We provide comprehensive representation throughout the process, from negotiated settlement to administrative litigation and appeal. The firm has defended clients in North Carolina, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, Florida, South Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Alabama, Georgia, California, Maine, Illinois and Texas against significant OSHA fines, including for fatalities, multiple serious injuries and the largest proposed fines in the history of Maryland’s and North Carolina’s state plans.
As part of our practice, attorneys monitor and update clients on legislative and regulatory developments in the workplace safety arena and maintain relationships within OSHA, allowing the firm to provide up-to-the-minute information and advice to clients. We also have filed comments with DOL on proposed regulatory initiatives.
With all OSHA citations, our clients typically wish to pursue negotiations with OSHA to determine whether a favorable settlement can be reached that drops or reduces the number, severity and penalty amounts of the citations. Our attorneys have had great success in obtaining favorable settlement agreements containing non-admission language, even in cases involving death and serious injuries. In situations where the injured workers include individuals who would not be barred by workers' compensation exclusivity from a tort action, we always manage settlement with an eye toward mitigating tort risk. This strategic approach is valued by our clients.
Affirmative Action Compliance/OFCCP
Numerous Hunton & Williams clients have contracts with federal agencies and are subject to Executive Order 11246 and its related affirmative action regulations. As a result, we have several employment lawyers with extensive experience advising and assisting contractors in developing affirmative action plans and in responding to OFCCP investigations.
As part of our OFCCP practice, we have prepared hundreds of affirmative action plans using our software program (for example, in 2008 we prepared more than 150 plans). Our lawyers supplement the statistical reports with narrative descriptions of the required job transactions and compensation analyses. We have also conducted numerous companywide training seminars on preparing affirmative action plans, developing processes for monitoring and analyzing workforce activity, and conducting internal audits of compensation.
Since 2000 we have handled more than 200 compliance audits in every state except Alaska and Hawaii. These compliance audits included more than a dozen corporate headquarter audits and multi-facility audits and covered a variety of industries, including financial services, electric utilities, pharmaceuticals, health care, tobacco, paper, railroad and construction. As a result of these audits, some of our clients have received awards from the OFCCP recognizing their exemplary affirmative action efforts.
Additionally, we are routinely retained at the post-audit stage — i.e., after the OFCCP has issued the notice of violation to the contractor — and have successfully negotiated favorable settlements on behalf of contractors. In a recent post-audit settlement, the OFCCP had noticed a violation in a contractor's hiring, identified a class of 1,000 females over a two-year period and sought approximately $2 million in back pay and interest. However, after we were retained, the contractor was able to settle with the OFCCP for less than $250,000.