|Author||Subject: Court of Appeals backs the state's right to private talks with workers on safety|
|Advocate|| Posted At 08:30:37 01/24/2000
Court of Appeals backs the state's right to private talks with workers on safety
A Marion County ruling that blocked interviews in a 1996 accident is overturned
Thursday, January 20, 2000
By Ashbel S. Green of The Oregonian staff
SALEM -- The Oregon Court of Appeals on Wednesday upheld the right of state workplace health and safety investigators to interview workers out of the presence of their bosses even if the workers object.
The three-judge panel's unanimous ruling overturned a Marion County judge's order blocking the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division from privately interviewing logging company workers in connection with a 1996 accident.
Peter De Luca, administrator of the state safety division, applauded the ruling, saying investigators sometimes needed confidential interviews to get to the bottom of serious workplace accidents.
"It's important because it allows us to talk to employees without anybody being present who might otherwise influence them," De Luca said. "A third party can create an atmosphere where complete candor is impossible."
Elliott C. Cummins, who represented Nygaard Logging Co. Inc. in the case, said he had not yet read the ruling Wednesday afternoon and could not comment on the specifics of the case.
Cummins said some employers wanted representatives in interviews because they were suspicious of the motives of some state investigators.
"We've always maintained that if an employee wants to have a confidential discussion with an OR-OSHA field investigator, that's fine," he said. But "a lot of times employees will come out of these interviews feeling tricked."
The accident in question occurred at a Nygaard work site in Clatsop County in August 1996, said Loy Knutzen, manager of safety enforcement in the Eugene field office. A log that employees were moving injured a worker.
Oregon OHSA investigators tried to interview Nygaard employees in private at the accident scene, but the employees refused. The state safety division responded by subpoenaing them to come to interviews in Portland.
Nygaard attorneys went to court.
In a three-pronged 1997 ruling, Marion County Circuit Judge Paul J. Lipscomb said state law did not authorize the state agency to interview workers informally in private against their will; did not allow the state agency to subpoena workers for interviews other than those under oath; and did not authorize the state agency to exclude employers from interviews of employees under oath.
The Court of Appeals disagreed on all three points. Cummins said he did not know whether his client would appeal.
Re: Court of Appeals backs the state's right to private talks with workers on safety (Currently 0 replies)
Posted At 15:18:12 04/09/2000
THIS IS THE PROBLEM..WHEN OSHA GOES TO A PLACE OF EMPLOYMENT TO GET TO THE BOTTOM OF WORK-RELATED INJURIES, THE EMPLOYEES ARE SCARED BECAUSE OF INTIMIDATION OF MANAGEMENT AND PERHAPS BEING BLACKLISTED AND HARRASSED AS A RESULT OF ADMITTING THE DANGERS IN THEIR JOBS.IT IS MOST ASSUREDLY A CONSPIRACY, TO SAY THE VERY LEAST!!SOMETHING NEEDS TO BE DONE ABOUT THE INTIMIDATION OF MANGEMENT, BECAUSE THAT IN OF ITSELF IS THE PROBLEM. BOTTOM LINE...MANGAGEMENT DOES NOT CARE ABOUT YOUR WELL BEING AS A PERSON/EMPLOYEE, ALTHOUGH THEY"ACT" LIKE THEY DO, AND BEHIND CLOSED DOORS THEY ARE VICSIOUSLY IMPLEMENTING A WAY TO TEAR YOU DOWN/ AND OR GET RID OF YOU. I WROTE A VERY POWERFUL LETTER TO L&I IN REFERENCE TO THE PROBLEMS IN MY STORE AS DID 3 OTHER FELLOW EMPLOYEES, AND NOTHING, AND I MEAN NOTHING HAS OR AS FAR AS I CAN TELL WILL BE DONE.WHEN WILL THIS INSANITY CEASE??WE NEED TOUGHER LAWS, PROTECTION AND COMPENSATION WHEN INJURED, OR FIX THE PROBLEM SO IT DOESN'T CONTINUE TO DETROY SO MANY LIVES IN THE PROCESS.