ABC Wants OSHA to Pay Attorney Fees for Contested Cases

Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) Director of Legal and Regulatory Affairs Anita Drummond testified yesterday before the House Education and Workforce Committee's Subcommittee on Workforce Protections to express ABC's support for H.R. 2731, the Occupational Safety and Health Small Employer Access to Justice Act of 2003.

Introduced by Rep. Charles Norwood, R-Ga. on July 15, H.R. 2731 is intended to level the playing field for a small business when it is cited by OSHA by allowing the award of costs and attorney's fees if the small business prevails in its defense.

Drummond told the committee that while ABC strongly supports H.R. 2731, it recommends the proposed legislation be amended to include a provision that assures awards for costs and attorney's fees are reimbursed directly out of OSHA's budget. "Without this link between enforcement and litigation," said Drummond, "behavioral change is unlikely. Currently, such awards under the Equal Access to Justice Act are not paid by the enforcing agency."

She said the proposed legislation "represents a small step towards assisting the good actors and the very smallest companies that maintain a safe workplace.

"While damaging to all businesses, the costs of defense are particularly harmful to small businesses, like many ABC member firms, that lack the resources to defend against unreasonable prosecution," said Drummond.

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