OSHA standard for workplaces free of sexual misconduct ideas needed.
December 7, 2017 11:43 PM   Subscribe

I'm drafting a petition to have OSHA promulgate standards for a safe and healthy workplace free of sexual misconduct. My goals are: Employers much provide a safe workplace, so we need: (1) training standards to prevent it, and (2) a framework for a civil process where CREDIBLE allegations of sexual misconduct gets you fired. Got any suggestions for law-talking words that would be best to use?

The mission of OSHA is:
"With the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, Congress created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance."
The mandate of worker safety from the harassment and abuse of sexual predators in the workplace belongs to OSHA.

Their rule, 29 CFR 1910.3(a) says
"Any interested person may petition in writing the Assistant Secretary of Labor to promulgate, modify, or revoke a standard. The petition should set forth the terms or the substance of the rule desired, the effects thereof if promulgated, and the reasons therefor."
Here's my draft so far:
December 7, 2017

Ms. Loren Sweatt
Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health
United States Department of Labor
200 Constitution Ave. N.W., Room S2315
Washington, D.C. 20210

Dear Secretary Sweatt:

Pursuant to 29 CFR 1910.3(a) (1996), the undersigned submits the following petition for promulgation of an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard for Occupational Exposure to Sexual Harassment, Sexual Assault, and Sexual Predators.

The undersigned petitions for promulgation of a new standard requiring ...

If not promulgated...

Because of the need to protect workers' health from the harmful effects of workplace exposure to sexual harassment, sexual assault, and sexual predators...

The lack of a standard, undermines OSHA's strong commitment to a safe and healthy work environment.

The undersigned respectfully submits this petition to promulgate foregoing standard.

These changes will result in …

By implementing these changes, OSHA will fulfill its mandate to protect the health of workers and ensure the safety of the workplace.


Michael S. Lieman
... add'l signers...
posted by mikelieman to Law & Government (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My understanding is that, by law, OSHA is limited to issues that may result in "death or serious physical harm." So sexual harassment isn't something they can, or should, focus on.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 4:57 AM on December 8, 2017

OSHA does have guidance (although not a standard) on Workplace Violence, which covers harassment. You might want to petition to add to that instead.

(They are also not in the business of firing people, but either fining the company and/or putting people in jail)
posted by Fig at 5:39 AM on December 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: (They are also not in the business of firing people, but either fining the company and/or putting people in jail)

Thanks for the link. I'm not thinking OSHA firing people but OSHA mandating training standards, not just for awareness and prevention but ALSO complaint handling processes. It's time for HR to look out for health and safety rather than cover up accusations that should be investigated in a thorough, best-practices manner.
posted by mikelieman at 8:21 AM on December 8, 2017

> My understanding is that, by law, OSHA is limited to issues that may result in "death or serious physical harm." So sexual harassment isn't something they can, or should, focus on.

Stress & mental health do fall under OSHA's purview, and sexual harassment can certainly impact both (among other impacts, including physical impacts). See resources on workplace stress from OSHA, the CDC, and NIOSH for some sample language you could use. The EEOC also has a ton of resources on sexual harassment, including suggested standards for training. You might find this report a particularly useful resource. You might consider combining info from the EEOC report with OSHA-sanctioned info on job stress. For instance...

FROM THE EEOC: One study found that the psychological effects of sexual harassment can rise to the level of diagnosable Major Depressive Disorder or PTSD.[82] Sexual harassment has also been tied to psychological effects such as negative mood, disordered eating, self-blame, reduced self-esteem, emotional exhaustion, anger, disgust, envy, fear, lowered satisfaction with life in general, and abuse of prescription drugs and alcohol.[83]

Physical harm can also result. Studies have linked sexual harassment to decreased overall health perceptions or satisfaction, as well as headaches, exhaustion, sleep problems, gastric problems, nausea, weight loss or gain, and respiratory, musculoskeletal, and cardiovascular issues.[84] These potential effects, both mental and physical, become increasingly likely when the harassment occurs over time.[85]

The damaging personal effects of harassment are not limited to victims. There is growing understanding that employees who observe or perceive mistreatment in their workplace can also suffer mental and physical harm. One study found that employees, female and male alike, who observed hostility directed toward female coworkers (both incivility and sexually harassing behavior) were more likely to experience lower psychological well-being.[86] These declines in mental health were, in turn, linked to lower physical well-being.[87] According to the study, the drivers of these effects can stem from empathy and worry for the victim, concern about the lack of fairness in their workplace, or fear of becoming the next target.[88] Whatever the case, if there is harassment in the workplace, more people than just the victim can be harmed.

FROM NIOSH: Job stress has significant adverse effects across the spectrum of well-being (e.g., physical and mental health, behavior, productivity, social, non-work outcomes), and has been linked with a range of adverse physical, mental, cognitive, behavioral, safety, and performance outcomes. Workers who report high levels of job stress have nearly 50% greater health care expenditures than those reporting low levels of job stress, and the median absence period for lost-time cases due to job stress is more than four times the median for all other injuries and illnesses."
posted by ourobouros at 9:22 AM on December 8, 2017

What is your evidence that training prevents sexual harassment? Your petition will be stronger if you can reference that literature.
posted by SyraCarol at 5:08 PM on December 8, 2017

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