PITTSBURGH, July 20, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The United Steelworkers (USW) today announced a settlement in the federal court case brought by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) against United States Steel (USS). The USW was an intervenor in the case. (Perez v. USS, Civil No. 1:16-92-RGA)
In 2014, USS disciplined three USW members for "late reporting" of minor injuries suffered at work in separate incidents. The members alleged and the USW agreed that the three did not initially know they were injured and reported the injuries as soon as they did know. With the help of the union, the three filed complaints with the DOL's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
After a lengthy investigation, OSHA sided with the complainants and on February 17, 2016 filed a case against USS in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware. Even before the case was filed, the company and the union entered into settlement negotiations, which were later joined by the DOL.
The case has important ramifications beyond the three disciplined union members. Workers who believe they will be unfairly punished for late reporting of an injury may choose not to report at all. OSHA and the USW maintained that the effect of the policy was to impermissibly discourage injury reporting and to retaliate against workers who did report.
The settlement replaces the USS injury reporting policy with a company-wide policy that provides for reporting only after an individual is aware of an injury. It establishes a similarly reasonable policy for reporting incidents like near misses. It also rescinds the discipline issued to the three complainants and provides them full back pay with interest.
In a side agreement with the union, USS agreed not to make use of any discipline issued under the old policy in any future proceeding involving anyone in any of their plants -- not just the three workers who were the subject of the DOL suit.
"This is an excellent settlement," said Tom Conway, USW International Vice President, who heads the union's USS Bargaining Committee. "Not only does it give justice to three brave union members who stood up for their rights, but it will lead to more complete and accurate injury records and improved safety. This will benefit both the workers and the company."
The USW represents 850,000 men and women employed in metals, mining, pulp and paper, rubber, chemicals, glass, auto supply and the energy-producing industries, along with a growing number of workers in public sector and service occupations.