Question: How do you get away with murder?
Answer: Hire your victim.
There are 16 workplace deaths on average in the United States every day. Most companies are never prosecuted for negligence, even after repeated warnings that their workers were in danger.
Under current Federal law, willfully contributing to the death of an employee is a misdemeanor that carries a maximum prison sentence of six months and a maximum fine of $70,000. Even with these weak penalties, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) rarely refers such cases to the Department of Justice for prosecution, so those employers that knowingly allow their employees to work under dangerous conditions are rarely held accountable. In fact, current laws are so weak that millions of dollars of penalties to victim's families have not been paid -- in those rare cases when violators are penalized at all.
Authored by Senator Ted Kennedy and Representative Lynn Woolsey, the Protecting America's Workers Act will:
Expand workplace protections to state, county, municipal, and federal employees who are not currently covered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act
- Increase financial penalties for those who kill or endanger workers
- Strengthen criminal penalties to make felony charges available for willful negligence causing death or serious injury
- Expand OSHA coverage to millions of employees who fall through the cracks (like airline and railroad workers)
- Provide protection for whistleblowers
- Give employees the right to refuse hazardous work that may kill them
- Improve the rights of workers and families, requiring OSHA to investigate all cases of death
- Prohibit employers from discouraging reporting of injury or illness
"After a tragic workplace loss families are left in the dark to struggle with their grief in a system that is not set up to handle them. The PAWA provides a voice and guidance for loved ones left behind and stiffer fines and penalties protect fellow workers from the same tragic fate."
- Tammy Miser
Founder, United Support & Memorial For Workplace Fatalities