Thursday, April 16, 2009

New Reports Show How OSHA, EEOC Failed Workers Under Bush

New revelations continue to surface about how Bush-era federal agencies violated workers' rights and safety, with reports over the last two weeks on the Labor Department's deadly failure to properly enforce safety and health laws and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's refusal to pay overtime.

In the Department Of Labor case, an internal investigation shows that OSHA didn't follow its own procedures in 97 percent of cases sampled in a performance audit, meaning employers with a history of safety violations were allowed to continue unchecked.

"The audit analyzed 325 inspections conducted under a special OSHA program established in 2003 to target the work sites of high-risk employers for increased enforcement," the Associated Press reported. "In nearly every case, it found OSHA did not properly follow procedures?

Of 29 employers identified for enforcement OSHA did not begin enforcement actions even though 16 of those employers later experienced 20 worker fatalities."

The report said that if OSHA had done its job, it may have deterred or reduced risks at the worksites of 45 employers where 58 fatalities later occurred.

In the case of the EEOC – the agency responsible for ensuring that workers are treated fairly – an arbitrator has found that managers "willfully violated" the Fair Labor Standards Act with its own employees.

Rather than pay workers overtime as required by law, they were offered compensatory time off, a violation that the arbitrator said amounted to "forced volunteering.

"The case before me, in my view, demonstrates action that went beyond mere negligence," arbitrator Steven M. Wolf wrote. "With rare exception in this record, the concept of 'requesting' compensatory time was a fiction."

The violations date back to 2003. It hasn't been determined yet whether workers will receive back pay.

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