By Robert G. Chadwick, Jr., Managing Member, Seltzer, Chadwick, Soefje & Ladik, PLLC.
On July 24, 2019, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals entered a judgment holding a construction company and its president in contempt for failing to pay $412,000 in OSHA penalties previously affirmed by the Court in a November 15, 2012 Decree. The judgment says the president is personally liable for the portion of the fine not paid by the company.
The company president said he construed the November 12, 2012 Decree, which named him, to apply only in his capacity as an officer or employee of the company, “not to have required [him] individually to satisfy the Decree from personal assets.”
The Third Circuit rejected this position. The Court said “[i]t is well established that when a corporate officer fails to act on behalf of the corporation to comply with a court order, the officer too may be held in contempt.” The Court also determined the sanction fairly holds the president accountable for “[his] failure, for more than four years, to make even a nominal effort to satisfy the November 15, 2012 Decree.”
The July 25, 2019 judgment underscores the authority of federal courts to enforce their orders. Moreover, the judgment shows that the time to challenge an OSHA fine, especially as to personal liability, is before a federal court renders a decree regarding the fine, not afterwards.
Robert G. Chadwick, Jr. frequently speaks to non-profit organizations regarding occupational safety and health issues. To contact him for a speaking engagement, please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.