By Meagan Newman and Craig B. Simonsen
The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC) recently concluded in Secretary v. Aerospace Manufacturing CT Systems, LLC, OSHRC Docket No. 11-0315 (September 22, 2011) that civil proceedings may be stayed pending the outcome of parallel criminal proceedings. In this case following a fatality at Aerospace Manufacturing CT Systems, LLC (Aerospace), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) conducted an inspection and issued the company a willful citation under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Two months after the Secretary filed a civil complaint with the OSHRC, the case was referred to the Department of Justice (DOJ) for potential criminal investigation and proceedings.
Procedurally the Secretary also filed a motion with the Administrative Law Judge seeking a stay of the Commission’s proceedings. In the motion, it was argued that a stay was necessary to prevent the proceedings before the Commission from interfering with any potential criminal prosecution and to prevent the Secretary from being prejudiced in its ability to conduct discovery in the pending Commission case. Aerospace filed an opposition to the Secretary’s motion, and the judge denied the Secretary’s request for a stay because no indictment had yet been issued against Aerospace.
The OSHRC in its decision concluded that civil proceedings may be stayed pending the outcome of parallel criminal proceedings. Although indeterminate stays are strongly disfavored, the Commission “‘ha[s] deferred civil proceedings pending the completion of parallel criminal prosecutions when the interests of justice seemed to require such action.’” C & S Erectors, 18 BNA OSHC 1052, 1053, (quoting United States v. Kordel, 397 U.S. 1, 12 n.27 (1970)).