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Criminal prosecution to intensify in worker safety violations

Criminal prosecution to intensify in worker safety violations

A workplace injury can lead to a great deal of scrutiny at a New Jersey business. In serious cases, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration can investigate to identify any problems in the work environment. If clear violations of OSHA standards are identified, there may be fines levied against a business. However, a recent memorandum of understanding signed by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Labor could complicate matters for employers. The memorandum was signed on Dec. 17, 2015, and it signifies plans for these departments to increase criminal prosecution of workplace safety violations.

Although safety standards are typically addressed with misdemeanor charges, there are areas in which employers might be charged for other offenses that could carry more serious penalties. For example, witness tampering and obstruction of justice charges might be made if there is a belief that an employer is trying to affect the outcome of an investigation. Conspiracy and false statements could also be dealt with through stronger charges. Environmental problems in the workplace could be handled as endangerment issues. In such cases, fines and incarceration periods could be much more substantial.

The goal of the agencies participating in this agreement is to improve work-related conditions for employees. However, an employer might worry about the potential need to mount a criminal defense in case of a fatal accident. Although some accidents might be attributed to neglecting safety standards, there might be a concern over facing charges for an incident that is truly accidental or that has been caused by the careless actions of an employee in spite of workplace training and precautions.

People who are facing criminal charges because of their actions in a supervisory or ownership role in a company might find legal representation to be important from the outset. A lawyer might focus on gathering evidence related to an incident to ensure that the client's side of the story can be corroborated.

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