Cal/OSHA clarifies scope of audit

In a March 15 memo, the California Department of Industrial Relations appeared to scale back a controversial probe into "teaching, training and presentation activities" performed by its Division of Occupational Safety and Health staff.

According to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, Cal/OSHA employees initially were directed to complete a questionnaire (.pdf file) specifying every non-work presentation given while working for the division -- including volunteer work -- and turn over related documents and materials or face disciplinary action. The investigation was prompted by a state audit that found a former Cal/OSHA employee gave presentations on occupational safety and health for pay while working for the agency.

Washington-based PEER issued a press release March 10 protesting what it called an "overly broad inquiry" and said the search violated employees' privacy rights. The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, Professional Engineers in California Government and Cal/OSHA employees also criticized the policy.

The new memo directs employees to include only activities from the past three years for which they used state resources, and does not require them to sign the questionnaire under penalty of perjury.

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