Labor Law -- 2018

Solus v. Superior Court of California   (California Supreme Court)

Federal OSHA preemption of state unfair competition law

The NAM filed an amicus brief asking the California Superior Court to uphold federal preemption of a California workplace safety law. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA), with approval of federal OSHA, designed a civil penalty structure to promote fair and consistent enforcement, encourage employers to adopt safety programs and provide incentives for companies to quickly and voluntarily address violations. Federal law subjects employers and employees to one set of workplace safety regulations, and it imposes uniform, deliberate, and predictable health and safety requirements. States may regulate and enforce workplace safety, but only pursuant to a federally approved plan that avoids duplicative and counterproductive regulation. The federal OSH Act should have preempted a district attorney’s enforcement action under California's Unfair Competition Law (UCL) when the action sought civil penalties inconsistent with California’s federally approved occupational safety law. The district attorney used the UCL to circumvent Cal/OSHA and increase civil penalties against a manufacturer on top of those already imposed by Cal/OSHA. The NAM's brief argued the following: (1) the County’s lawsuit is preempted by federal law, which determines the regulations and enforcement methods for workplace safety standards in California; (2) the unfair competition law is inconsistent with California’s approved penalty structure for workplace safety violations and (3) the court should require pre-approval under the state plan before any county can pursue a unfair competition claim for workplace safety violations. The California Supreme Court held that the UCL was not preempted by the federal OSH Act.

Related Documents:
NAM brief  (May 28, 2015)


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