Watch Out-Steeper Civil Penalties Up Ahead
You can face civil penalties if the DOL determines that you have violated any of the laws that its departments help to enforce—including, for example, OSHA and the FLSA. Some of these penalties have stayed at the same amount for the last twenty years (or even longer). But recently, as a result of an act passed by Congress directing agencies to adjust their penalties for inflation, the DOL has published a new rule increasing the civil penalties that will apply for certain violations.
So what has changed? Three key increases:
• OSHA’s top penalties (which have not been raised since 1990) will increase by 78%, meaning its top penalty for serious violations will go from $7,000 to $12,471. This also means that the penalty for willful or repeated violations will increase from $70,000 to $124,709.
• The Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs’ (OWCP) penalty for failure to report termination of payments made under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (which has only gone up $10 since 1927) will increase from $110 to $275.
• The Wage and Hour Division’s penalty for willful violations of the FLSA will rise from $1,100 to $1,894.
According to the DOL, these increases are meant to deter violations—and are for the good of both employees and “responsible employers.” These new amounts are only applicable to civil penalties assessed by the DOL after August 1, 2016 for violations which occurred after November 2, 2015.