On July 15, the U. S. Department of Labor (DOL) and United Steelworkers Union settled its complaint with U.S. Steel Corp. that alleged the employer violated the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) by discriminating against its employees for exercising rights protected by OSHA. The Act requires an employer to provide appropriate reporting procedures for reporting on-the-job injuries and illnesses in order to achieve the Act’s objectives.
U.S. Steel’s injury reporting policy that required employees to immediately report injuries to a supervisor came under fire when the employer suspended workers without pay for reporting injuries which occurred several days earlier. Two U.S. Steel workers were involved in separate incidents at work which caused delayed injuries. When the incidents began to cause physical problems, the workers visited doctors and reported the injuries immediately following their doctors’ visits. In response to the discipline, the workers filed complaints with OSHA with their union’s help.
DOL’s lawsuit alleged that U.S. Steel’s immediate report policy violated OSHA because it made it difficult or impossible for employees to comply because of the many situations where an employee will be unaware at the time of an incident that an injury occurred. DOL alleged that the immediate report policy discourages reasonable employees from reporting injuries as soon as they realize they have been injured because they risk discipline; therefore the policy creates a barrier for reasonable employees to report workplace injuries as authorized by OSHA.
The settlement that involved DOL, the Steelworkers, and U.S. Steel provided lost pay and benefits for the disciplined workers as well as a change in U.S. Steel policy, including requiring that workers report an injury as soon as reasonably possible, but in no event later than leaving the plant or eight hours after becoming aware of the injury.
This settlement demonstrates that unions and workers nationwide can succeed at instituting reasonable injury and illness reporting procedures.