What to Know About the Process for Contesting an OSHA Citation

When Congress enacted the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), it created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).  OSHA is a federal sub-agency of the Department of Labor (DOL), and its mission is preventing work-related injuries, illnesses, and deaths by setting and enforcing workplace safety standards.  OSHA has the power to issue citations against employers for alleged violations of workplace safety regulations; however, the agency citations are not final. 

Talented and experienced OSHA defense lawyers at Anderson Jones, PLLC, explain the process and key factors when contesting an OSHA citation in North Carolina.

OSHA Citations: Explained

OSHA violations are issued by the federal agency for workplace safety violations. North Carolina has largely adopted federal standards. Citations can be issued for a wide range of reasons. Citations may also impose penalties that can include significant financial sanctions. Employers may also face injunctive sanction that compel specific actions.  An example is a directive to revise workplace safety/training practices. 

You Have 15 Days to Contest an OSHA Citation (Notice of Intent) 

Employers can challenge an OSHA citation. Perhaps the single most important thing to know about the process is that there is a very strict deadline to initiate a contest for an OSHA penalty. A North Carolina employer must contest an OSHA citation within 15 days of receipt. To do so, an employer needs to submit a Notice of Intent. If the challenge is not submitted promptly, the OSHA citation can become final and preclude the opportunity to present a defense.

Essential Content for a Notice of Intent

It is important to emphasize that a Notice of Intent for an OSHA citation must be properly drafted. A Notice of Intent that is insufficient or defective may not preserve your rights as an employer. In addition to being timely, a Notice of Intent should also contain the following required elements: 

  1. A clear indication of what aspect of the citation is being contested—whether it is the citation of violations, the penalties, or any other component of the citation.
  2. A clear statement that all violations or a particular violations are being contested.

A Proper, Good Faith Contest Will Suspend Employer Obligations

To contest an OSHA citation, it is essential that employers understand their citations penalties are suspended while a good faith contest is ongoing. OSHA must deem a challenge to be in “good faith” for the penalties to be temporarily suspended. In other words, if the contest is determined to be a delay tactic or an attempt to avoid paying penalties, the agency may not recognize its validity. With this in mind, it is crucial that your contest is based on legitimate grounds and filed in a timely manner.

Employers May Attempt to Settle the Case Directly With OSHA

Not all OSHA citation contests end up in “litigation.” In some cases, employers may attempt to settle an OSHA citation directly with the agency. Most often, this involves negotiating for a reduced penalty in exchange for the employer taking corrective action to address the citation. A North Carolina OSHA defense lawyer can help you determine if a settlement is the right approach for your case. 

The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC) Will Hear the Case

OSHA contests are administered by the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC). The federal sub-agency is independent of OSHA itself. OSHRC will assign a matter to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) as part of its process. A hearing will be scheduled by the ALJ, during which both sides—the employer and OSHA—will have an opportunity to present their case. 

The Bottom Line: You have the right to challenge an OSHA citation. Employers should be prepared to present a strong, evidence-backed, and well-supported defense. An experienced North Carolina OSHA defense lawyer will protect your rights and take action to get the best outcome. 

Contact Our OSHA Defense Attorneys Today

At Anderson Jones, PLLC, our seasoned and strategic North Carolina OSHA defense lawyers are skilled, experienced, and solutions-first advocates for companies and organizations. If you have any questions about contesting an OSHA citation, we can help. Give us a call now or connect with us online to arrange your fully confidential case review.