More government ‘boots’ are on the ground

published in Tulsa Business Journal | June 3, 2010

A presentation by McAfee & Taft labor and employment attorney Charlie Plumb concerning the latest changes in employment laws and regulations was highlighted in a Tulsa Business Journal article about the increase in enforcement efforts by federal agencies. Plumb’s presentation was part of McAfee & Taft’s Spring 2010 Labor & Employment and Employee Benefits Seminar held in both Tulsa and Oklahoma City.

Feeling their predecessors were too lax, current federal agencies are increasing enforcement activity, according to the article. Individual agency actions include: 15,000 letters sent out by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to workplaces with high injury and illness rates advising immediate action to correct situations; an increase in investigations by the Wage and Hour Division into employee misclassification; more aggressive investigations with less flexible resolutions from discrimination enforcement agencies, including the Oklahoma Human Rights Commission (OHRC) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).  The Oklahoma state senate is also taking action with SB1384 that would allow three state agencies to work together and exchange information when responding to employment claims.

According to Plumb, “Oklahoma is a little behind the curve in that kind of activity, but it is coming.”  Issues that could trigger an agency’s attention include employee complaints, current or past.  Several industries are also targets, including the construction and retail sectors.

The article goes on to discuss steps an employer can take that will make company positions more defensible, including reviewing company policies and records as well as conducting regular supervisor training.  However, Plumb cautions that, even with safeguards in place, no employer is lawsuit free.