In 2015, Congress passed the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act to advance the effectiveness of civil monetary penalties and to maintain their deterrent effect. The new law directs federal agencies to adjust their penalties for inflation each year, and requires agencies to publish “catch up” rules this summer to make up for lost time since the last adjustments.
The new method will adjust penalties for inflation, though the amount of the increase is capped at 150 percent of the existing penalty amount. The baseline is the last increase other than for inflation. The new civil penalty amounts are applicable only to civil penalties assessed after Aug. 1, whose associated violations occurred after Nov. 2, 2015.
“Civil penalties should be a credible deterrent that influences behavior far and wide,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “Adjusting our penalties to keep pace with the cost of living can lead to significant benefits for workers and can level the playing field responsible employers who should not have to compete with those who don’t follow the law.”
Agencies must publish interim final rules by July 1. The department will accept public comments for 45 days.
OSHA’s maximum penalties, which have not been raised since 1990, will increase by 78 percent. The top penalty for serious violations will rise from $7,000 to $12,471. The maximum penalty for willful or repeated violations will increase from $70,000 to $124,709.
MSHA’s fines are increasing, but at a smaller amount than those issued by OSHA. Fines for flagrant violations of the Mine Safety and Health Act are increasing from $242,000 to $250,433. The fine for failure to correct is increasing to $7,500 from $6,500.