Federal agencies Fines/penalties

DOL final rule aimed at improving debt collection efforts

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Washington — The Department of Labor has published a final rule intended to help its agencies, including OSHA, improve their collection efforts for citation penalties and other debts.

Published in the Dec. 23 Federal Register, the rule permits DOL agencies to send second and subsequent collection letters at intervals of less than 30 days after the initial letter was sent. Previously, a 30-day period was “generally” required between the first and second letters, as well as any subsequent letters.

“Second, the final rule encourages debt collection efforts to proceed promptly so that, if needed, uncollected debt may be referred to the Department of Justice in a timely manner,” the rule states.

In a press release, OSHA details its revised collection strategy. Payment letters will be sent seven, 30 and 60 days after an establishment fails to pay a penalty based on a final order. Additionally, the agency will contact establishments by phone 14 days after payment is due.

“Expediting the notifications to employers who have not paid OSHA fines will work to improve OSHA’s enforcement presence,” acting OSHA administrator Loren Sweatt said in the release. “At the conclusion of an OSHA inspection where a final order is issued, employers must abate hazards to protect workers and pay assessed civil monetary penalties.”

If an establishment isn’t on “an affordable payment plan” or fails to make a civil monetary penalty payment from an inspection resulting in a citation, OSHA will place the establishment on a priority list for additional inspection. Agency inspectors also will gather employer identification numbers as part of their pre-inspection preparation.

 

“These steps will enhance the effectiveness of OSHA’s enforcement program,” Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia said in the release. “The department will ensure that firms with safety and health violations are held accountable and pay their debts.”

During a House appropriations subcommittee hearing in March 2018, then-Labor Secretary R. Alexander Acosta said the Mine Safety and Health Administration had failed to collect $67 million in unpaid fines dating back 10 years.

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