In testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee this week, Department of Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta emphasized OSHA’s future focus on compliance assistance to employers and said OSHA had abandoned Obama-era policies on “joint employers.”

In his written testimony in support of his department’s FY2018 budget request, Acosta noted, “The Budget supports the Department’s emphasis on compliance assistance and provides an additional $4.0 million for OSHA’s federal compliance assistance activity. This investment will allow OSHA to broaden its assistance and support to employers who are trying to best protect their workers.”

At the same time, the budget cuts funding for OSHA inspections by $2 million. Acosta defended the cut as less than 1% of the agency’s $543 million budget.

Echoing this emphasis in his oral testimony, Acosta added, “Compliance assistance is very important. We need enforcement to go hand and hand. Compliance assistance at the end of the day I think can bring about sometimes greater compliance.” Yet, he insisted that expanding compliance assistance “doesn’t mean we have any less enforcement.”

Obama OSHA “joint employer” guidance withdrawn

Secretary Acosta also noted during the hearing that DOL has withdrawn the “joint employer” guidance issued by OSHA during the Obama administration. On June 7th, DOL announced that “withdrawal of the U.S. Department of Labor’s 2015 and 2016 informal guidance on joint employment and independent contractors.”

That informal draft guidance, from 2015 and 2016, followed a National Labor Relations Board decision that expanded the definition of joint employer. OSHA’s prior draft suggested that joint employment was so broad that franchisors could could be joint employers liable for what happens at franchisee facilities.