Settlement Talks Mandatory in Pilot Program for Complex Job Safety Cases


Contact: Linda Whitsett

Release 99-1

(202) 606-5398

February 22, 1999





Employers who receive job safety or health citations that include proposed penalties of $200,000 or more must participate in formal settlement talks under a pilot program, according to Stuart E. Weisberg, head of the federal agency that decides such cases. Referred to as the Settlement Part, the rules were published in the February 19, 1999 Federal Register (64 FR 8243-8247).  The new part supplements the agency's settlement judge procedure and will be evaluated after one year to determine if requiring litigants to appear before a settlement judge speeds resolution.

When employers contest workplace safety citations, they are not required to correct allegedly unsafe conditions until the Review Commission issues a final decision; thus settlement often brings swifter correction of potential workplace hazards. The new settlement procedure provides for a negotiation period of 120 days and for a one-time, 30 day extension of that time at the judge's discretion.

Settlement negotiations will be presided over by a judge who will not hear the case should the effort fail to resolve the issues.  OSHRC's Chief Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) may act as a settlement judge or appoint another judge to do so. Four judges have been trained in settlement techniques and procedures -- Chief ALJ Irving Sommer and  ALJs Benjamin R. Loye, Stephen J. Simko, Jr. and Robert A. Yetman.  Decisions on assigning a settlement judge or ending settlement efforts are not subject to review. To enhance the chances of success, settlement conferences must be attended by officials with the authority to settle. Information and documents shared during such negotiations will be confidential and protected from later disclosure unless all parties agree.

The Review Commission is the independent federal adjudicatory agency that issues decisions in disputes arising from citations issued by the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration. By providing the Settlement Part as a more structured and formal setting in the preliminary stages of cases to promote the resolution of disputes, it believes litigation costs may be reduced in both the judicial hearing and review processes.