The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled unanimously on Friday that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration must issue a citation within six months of a violation's occurrence. The ruling put an end to the agency's practice of extending the statute of limitations for violations as long as five years and reversed an earlier decision by the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
"Nothing in the statute suggests Congress sought to endow this bureaucracy with the power to hold a discrete record-making violation over employers for years, and then cite the employer long after the opportunity to actually improve the workplace has passed," wrote Judge Janice Rogers Brown in the lead opinion.
If, however, an employer continues to place employees in unsafe conditions or doesn't provide appropriate training, "OSHA may be able to toll the statute of limitations on a continuing violations theory since the dangers created by the violations persist," she wrote.
"This is an important case, and the decision adds much-needed clarity for businesses that need to know when the statute of limitations applies and when it doesn't," said Clay Detlefsen, IDFA vice president of regulatory affairs.
The case before the court, AKM LLC d/b/a Volks Constructors v. Secretary of Labor, challenged more than 60 citations that OSHA gave Volks for record-keeping violations that occurred between 2002 and 2006. Read more about the case here.
For more information on the court ruling and its impact on business, contact Detlefsen at firstname.lastname@example.org.