The increases have been issued as a final rule following the guidelines of the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act, which were passed by Congress last year. In it, each agency must publish “catch-up” rules by July 1 to bring penalty structures current from the date of the last increase.
The first rule is the one directly tied to the industry; it includes most penalties by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) as well as other groups including the Employee Benefits Security Administration, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs. A second rule is tied primarily to the Department of Homeland Security and impacts temporary guest workers.
Specifically, the adjustments are capped at 150% of the existing penalty amount, and impact only penalties assessed after August 1 for violations that occurred after November 2, 2015. For example, a regular assessment (30 CFR 100.3(A)), last adjusted in 2007, will now by capped at $68,300, and minimum penalties for orders issued under 104(d)(2) of the Mine Act will now carry a minimum penalty of $4,553.
Additionally, OSHA’s maximum penalties will rise by 78%; they were last adjusted in 1990. The highest penalty for serious violations will rise from $7,000 to $12,471, and maximum penalties for willful or repeated violations will jump from $70,000 to $124,709.
“Civil penalties should be a credible deterrent that influences behavior far and wide,” U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez said. “Adjusting our penalties to keep pace with the cost of living can lead to significant benefits for workers and can level the playing field responsible employers who should not have to compete with those who don’t follow the law.”
A 45-day public comment period has now opened for public input on the new rules. A full listing of adjustments by agency is available here.