Case Brief Assignment
To better understand the law with respect to the roles and responsibilities of the occupational safety, health, and environmental professional, you will need to be able to read and understand court decisions and other legal decisions. You can utilize a process that involves reading, analyzing, and briefing decisions. This method is presented in the Preface of our course text.
For this assignment, you are required to read, analyze, and brief one Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission decision by Administrative Law Judges or Commissioners. You should note that the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission is an independent agency of the U.S. Government that was established by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 to function like a court to resolve certain disputes under the Act. You can access these decisions from the Occupational Safety & Health Review Commission (Links to an
external site.) website.
There are two areas of OSHA law that you might find in developing your case briefs that should be clarified. The first is OSHA’s General Duty
Clause. In order for OSHA to invoke the General Duty Clause, when there is not an existing OSHA regulation that addresses the hazard, the following conditions must all be present:
1. whether a hazard exists;
2. whether that hazard is recognized;
3. whether the hazard is causing, or is likely to cause, serious physical harm to employees; and
4. whether a feasible means exists to reduce the hazard.
The second is an often-used defense of “employee misconduct.” The argument typically goes that the employer told the employee to do it properly and it isn’t the employer’s fault the employee chose not to do so. The “unpreventable employee misconduct defense” is a hard case to prove, but here is a summary (Links to an external site.) of the issue from a law point of view. To summarize, there must also be four conditions:
1. The employer had in place a work rule adequate to prevent the violation;
2. The employer effectively communicated the rule to employees;
3. The employer established methods for discovering violations of work rules, and yet did not know about an isolated violation of the work rules;
4. The employer can show documented enforcement of the rule when violations were discovered. Case Brief