R. Todd Bennett, P.C.
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New rules to determine handling of some OSHA cases

Texas business owners who face criminal charges for violations of OSHA regulations or other federal workplace safety laws should know that in December 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice stated its intention to change the way certain crimes would be prosecuted. According to news sources, committing the crimes in question could result in some employers being indicted for felony level offenses. If convicted, the accused may be subjected to penalties that include stiff fines and jail sentences of between five and 20 years.

Occupational Safety and Health Act citations could place additional new burdens on employers when associated fines increase by more than 80 percent during 2016. While employers were formerly only liable to be prosecuted when their intentional violations of OSHA law caused the deaths of workers, such offenses never exceeded the category of misdemeanors.

The December DOJ proclamation is said to encourage prosecutors to seek heightened penalties and reduce the chance of employer violation by pursuing environmental indictments along with worker safety violations. In addition to impacting OSHA prosecutions, such a move could affect cases related to the Mine Safety Act, the Atomic Energy Act and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Protection Acts, all of which have been remanded to the DOJ's Environment and Natural Resources Division's Environmental Crimes Section.

As laws change, employers and other decision-makers may find themselves facing serious allegations of wrongdoing. When such charges include environmental or worker safety matters, they can result in serious negative publicity even if they don't lead to convictions. Similarly, individual employers may lose their positions due to diminished confidence or compromised trust from partners or shareholders. Those who have been indicted might wish to speak with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible in order to start building a strategy to combat the charges.

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