OSHA EXTENDS COMMENT DEADLINE ON PROPOSED RECORDKEEPING PUBLICATION RULE
On January 7, 2014, OSHA announced that it would extend the deadline for public comments on the proposed changes to its recordkeeping regulations which have remained basically unchanged for decades. The new deadline to submit comments has been extended until Saturday March 8, 2014. The November, 2013 proposed rule has two major components. First, all employers with 250 or more employees, or certain employers of 20 or more employees, must electronically submit injury and illness information on the OSHA Forms 300, 301 and 300A, either quarterly or annually. Second, OSHA intends to publish information provided by the employers on these forms to the general public.
The fact that this information will be made available to the general public has ignited controversy among employers. There is the obvious potential for abuse and mischief presented by easy access to employer safety records. But the public is also very concerned over the idea of a government website hosting vast amounts of personal data such as that noted on these illness and injury records. Some OSHA recordkeeping forms contain employee names, home addresses, dates of birth, health care information, and treatment information. To date, no explanation has been provided by OSHA explaining how the agency plans to encrypt and protect such sensitive data.
Also, employers should be aware that current regulations require posting of OSHA Form 300A injury/illness summary between February 1st and April 30th, 2014. The properly completed OSHA Form 300A should be displayed in a common area where notices to employees are usually posted. Please feel free to contact our office with any questions or concerns.
Workers’ Compensation Seminar:
Bugbee & Conkle will hold its Annual Workers’ Compensation Seminar at the Hilton Garden Inn, 6165 Levis Commons Blvd., Perrysburg, Ohio on March 6, 2014!
Register on our homepage.
NLRB REJECTS EMPLOYER’S “NO GOSSIP” POLICY
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) continues to insert itself into the workplace of all employers, regardless of whether there is a union on site or not. The most common way the NLRB does this is by its critical review any employer policies that attempt to regulate employee speech. In late December, 2013, the most recent example of this activity happened in the case of Laurus Technical Institute, where an Administrative Law Judge of the NLRB ordered the employer to reinstate, with full backpay and benefits, an office employee who had been fired for violating a “no gossiping” policy.
The employer in that case had adopted a “no gossip” policy in an effort to restore order and discipline to a workplace (an office environment) that apparently had become rife with rumor and gossip that was detracting from all employees’ performance and morale. However, the policy was very broad in its definition of what constituted “gossip,” and did not even try to narrow or confine its application to topics that are not protected by law, a significant problem in light of federal labor laws.
Under the National Labor Relations Act, employees have the right to discuss, with their supervisors and with each other, any issues concerning their “…wages, hours and other terms of conditions and employment.” Clearly this covers a wide array of topics commonly discussed in a workplace. However, this employer’s “no gossip” policy did not contain any exception that would allow employees to talk about such matters, and simply prohibited all discussion about another person’s professional life unless a supervisor was present. The policy also prohibited negative, untrue or disparaging comments or criticisms of other employees. When the particular employee was discharged for violating this policy, based on comments that reflected poorly on another employee’s skills, the NLRB had no difficulty ordering the employee reinstated and paid full back pay.
This is simply the most recent example of how the NLRB continues to interject itself into work sites regardless of whether there is a union present or not. Therefore, care must be taken whenever an employer makes personnel decisions, and/or renews, amends and publishes new work rules or employment policies, so that the criteria set by the NLRB and which govern such decisions are given due consideration. Because this has been a topic of increasing concern in recent years, and there does not appear to be any lessening of the NLRB’s interest or activity in this area, employers are urged to act cautiously whenever they try to regulate employee conduct and/or speech, whether in the workplace, on social media sites, or elsewhere.