BOSTON – The Occupational Safety and Health Act authorizes the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue subpoenas to request necessary documents as part of an OSHA inspection. If a recipient fails to comply, the department may then move to enforce the subpoena in federal district court. A recent decision by the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts affirms that recipients who oppose such investigative requests without substantial justification can face significant and costly consequences.
On Oct. 21, 2021, the court ordered UHS of Fuller Inc. and UHS of Delaware Inc. to pay the department $30,515.63 in attorneys’ fees after they failed to comply with an OSHA-issued subpoena for documents.
OSHA issued the subpoena as part of a 2019 workplace violence inspection at an Attleboro behavioral health facility the companies operated. Among other things, the subpoena requested video footage of workplace violence incidents involving employees at the facility. After failing to comply, the department’s Regional Office of the Solicitor petitioned the court to enforce the subpoena for the requested video.
The court found that the companies’ opposition was not “substantially justified” and ordered them to comply with the subpoena, and to pay the department’s attorneys’ fees incurred responding to their arguments.
“The court made clear that there can be significant consequences for a recipient that opposes OSHA subpoena compliance without substantial justification. The law makes a clear distinction between good faith arguments and those that lack merit,” said Regional Solicitor of Labor Maia Fisher in Boston. “If a recipient chooses to engage in the latter, the recipient should expect to be held accountable.”
“OSHA’s mission is to seek to ensure a healthy and safe workplace for every employee,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Galen Blanton in Boston. “To do that, OSHA must be able to obtain and evaluate all evidence that illustrates a workplace’s potential hazardous conditions. The court’s decision supports this.”
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s workers by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance.
Walsh v. UHS of Fuller Inc. /UHS of Delaware Inc.
Misc. Action No. 1:19-mc-91541-FDS