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Is the Government Doing Enough to Protect Workers?

New York City Workers' CompensationFederal contractors are paid with taxpayer money to provide goods and services for government projects. Federal contracts can be very lucrative. Unfortunately, some federal contractors accepting millions in taxpayer money violate worker safety laws designed to protect employee health.

Recently, President Barack Obama issued an executive order designed to ensure that federal contractors are complying with the law. Unfortunately the executive order (EO) does not go nearly far enough to provide meaningful protection. Much more could be done to ensure that workers who provide services and goods the public depends upon have a safe environment in which to do their jobs. If injury does occur, a workers compensation lawyer can help the victim or surviving family members understand the available legal options for obtaining compensation.

Executive Order Provides Insufficient Protection to Workers

According to Safety News Alert, a 2010 report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) revealed that almost 50 percent of companies that faced some of the largest fines for violating work-safety laws were federal contractors. Fines are levied by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

A Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee report in 2013 also revealed that 18 companies that had received federal contracts had also been handed 23 out of the top 100 largest fines for violating worker safety laws.

No employer should disobey OSHA regulations and put workers at risk. But it is especially egregious when companies paid with taxpayer dollars endanger workers. To try to combat this problem and encourage federal contractors to take safety more seriously, President Obama recently issued the Fair Pay and Safe Work Executive Order. This EO will apply to federal contractors who have contracts to provide at least $500,000 in goods and/or services to the federal government.

The contractors will be disqualified from projects if they have serious violations of worker-protection laws, including the National Labor Relations Act, which protects collective bargaining rights; the Fair Labor Standards Act, which sets wage and hour rules; and the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which puts workplace safety standards into place.

Unfortunately, the executive order does not go into effect until 2016 and, even then, will be slowly phased in. This means that there are at least two more years for companies to behave badly when it comes to worker safety records and still be rewarded with lucrative federal contracts.

Furthermore, a history of OSHA violations is not necessarily going to actually disqualify a company from federal projects. The contracting officials will consider only the most serious violations of safety laws that rise to the level of a lack of integrity or business ethics." The goal is not to disqualify contractors who allow unsafe work conditions but instead to identify problems and help employers to remedy those dangerous conditions.

Unfortunately, it seems clear that this law is not strict enough and does not go far enough to protect workers and force companies to do right by their employees.

If you have suffered a workplace injury in New York, contact the Law Offices of Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano, LLP today by calling (800) 692-3717