Labor Dept. opens database listing company sins

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U.S. Department of Labor Opens Its Database for All to See
Written by Wayne D. Landsverk
Miller Nash LLP,
Oregon and Washington Law Firm

The U.S. Department of Labor has just unveiled its new Web site, designed to make the enforcement data of five agencies “transparent.” The result is a searchable database of company-specific information, accessible by anyone with access to a computer, collected in the course of inquiries and investigations by the following federal agencies:  Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), Wage and Hour Division (WHD), and Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA). The link to the Web site is http://ogesdw.dol.gov/index.php.

At this point, the information goes back as far as 2004 and is presented in table form, with the option to create an Excel spreadsheet of the information. But the DOL says that its site “is a work in progress” and that its plans include building a “data catalog,” adding “new search criteria” (including searches by company name), and “integrating” its data warehouse with the data systems of other federal and state enforcement agencies.

Since everyone—including employees, former employees, attorneys, competitors, and unions—has free and unlimited access to these databases, employers will want to visit these sites to ensure that any information pertaining to them involving past enforcement action is accurate. Going forward, employers should keep in mind the transparency of these databases and their potential usefulness to a variety of visitors to the Web sites. For example, a union interested in waging a corporate campaign against an employer would likely try to find fodder for its campaign in such data. Employers will need to be aware of the new visibility of agency proceedings and consider carefully how they wish to respond to audits or investigations in light of this new development.