South Carolina officials have filed another federal lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Labor over a requirement that the state’s maximum civil penalties in workplace safety citations match or exceed those of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
The complaint, filed Tuesday in the U.S. District of Columbia, challenges the requirement that the South Carolina State Plan increase its civil penalties to be in line with the federal civil penalties that OSHA has increased annually since 2016 under the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 2015 .
The state, one of 21 allowed to have OSHA plans at the state level, previously sued over the same issue, but a judge dismissed the complaint, ruling that the court lacked jurisdiction.
South Carolina argues in the latest lawsuit that the OSHA regulation requiring state plans to have civil penalty maximums identical to or greater than federal penalties is inconsistent with federal law.
The “only purported justification”; offered in the 2016 rule requiring states to plan to adopt civil penalties identical to, or at least equal to, federal ones is the claim that increased penalties will have a “greater deterrent effect,” it says that in the lawsuit.
“This simplistic and conclusory statement ignores the fact that careful administration and enforcement of state plans can still result in “safe and healthy employment and workplaces” as federal standards, as South Carolina workplaces have demonstrated since 2016,” the lawsuit states.
South Carolina claims that despite having civil penalties lower than federal fines, workplaces in the state have reported fewer workplace injuries and illnesses than the national average.