OSHA: Agency Withdraws At-Home Workers Safety Letter
Responding to criticism from businesses and government officials, the U.S. Department of Labor yesterday withdrew its advisory letter that said employers were responsible for the safety of at- home employees, the AP/Philadelphia Inquirer reports. At a news conference yesterday, Labor Secretary Alexis Herman said that the letter, dated Nov. 15 and posted on the agency's Web site, was intended as a response to a single company's inquiry regarding at-home workers. Herman said, "The letter, however caused widespread confusion and unintended consequences for others. As a result of those unintended consequences, I have made the decision to withdraw the letter today" (1/6). Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC) had written to OSHA in 1997 to clarify policies for 10 of the company's telecommuters. CSC spokesperson Frank Pollare said, "It was just one guy (in our Houston subsidiary) trying to get out ahead on this issue. We had no idea that it would become a lightning rod two years later." However, the letter has raised concerns for many businesses as they employ more at-home workers. In response, Herman said that she plans to convene a task force of business and labor leaders to address the issue. "Given the changing nature of work in the 21st century, we need to determine what are the new rules of the road" (Rivera Brooks/Dickerson, Los Angeles Times, 1/6). Herman's solution did not sit well with some Republican Congressmen. Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), chair of the House Workforce Committee's panel on employer-employee relations, demanded that Herman give Congress all documents addressing the matter. "There's a fine line separating big government from BIg Brother. Americans deserve to know the full extent of this intrusive scheme" (AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 1/6).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.