By Chris Morehead
For the Oregon Beer Growler
President Donald Trump was inaugurated on January 20, 2017, and like every POTUS before him, his policy decisions and cabinet nominations will have far-reaching impacts. The American workplace is no exception. Here are three issues we believe all employers in the craft beer industry should pay close attention to under Trump.
1. Workplace Safety – Rollback of OSHA Penalties/Reporting
On December 8, Trump tapped Andy Puzder to be the new secretary of labor, arguably the most powerful and influential position over the American workplace. In June 2016, the Department of Labor announced substantial increases to the fines and penalties associated with Occupational Safety and Health Administration violations. Those increases went into effect in August 2016. Under Puzder, breweries can expect those fines and penalties to likely be rolled back to pre-August 2016 amounts.
Around the same time, the Department of Labor finalized rules that will require employers to report workplace injuries to a database available to the public starting July 1, 2017. Perceived by many in the Trump administration to be unduly burdensome and a violation of privacy rights, those recordkeeping and reporting requirements may be eliminated or modified. But note that this doesn’t mean you can neglect your OSHA 300 forms.
2. Wage and Hour Laws
In the September 2016 edition, I wrote that the Department of Labor’s overtime rule, which was slated to go into effect on Dec. 1, was one of the biggest potential challenges facing many employers in the craft beer industry. The overtime rule would have required breweries and brewpubs to pay their salaried managers a minimum of $47,476 per year (roughly doubling the baseline standard) in order to qualify for the overtime exemption. However, a Nov. 22 court decision temporarily blocked the implementation nationwide. The decision is being appealed, but the issue likely won’t be heard until after Trump’s inauguration.
Even if the rule survives the court challenge, Puzder’s Labor Department is expected to scrap or water down the overtime rule, which would make the issue moot for brewers and brewpubs that have been awaiting some sort of clarity before increasing salaries for exempt employees. It is also worth noting that Puzder is a big opponent of the “Fight for $15” movement, so don’t expect any federal minimum wage movement for non-exempt employees either. (Note: this will not impact Oregon’s minimum wage increases).
3. Pay Equity
Pay equity is expected to continue being a hot issue across the country under Trump. In the last year, California and Massachusetts are just two beer-producing states that have enacted or revamped pay equity laws. In addition, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will soon require all employers with 100-plus employees to report pay data for male and female workers. While this requirement will impact a relatively small number of breweries, others in the craft beer industry will be subject to those new regulations.
Moreover, in December 2016, Oregon legislators released draft versions of an Oregon equal pay law that will likely be a major agenda item in the 2017 legislative session. While the version is far from finalized, early indications are that craft beer employers can expect future legislation that may prevent them from inquiring about things like an applicant’s previous compensation (regardless of sex). Likewise, we can be almost certain that any such law will require you to “fix” any disparities shown on your payroll records, or otherwise require you to have an ironclad business justification for any pay disparity. Stay tuned.
By Chris Morehead
For the Oregon Beer Growler
It’s often said that football teams adopt their coach’s personality. The ultimate goal for each coach is to win on game day, but the strategies, preparation and execution can vary substantially. Generally speaking, the team that is most prepared and executes its game plan better than its opponent will win.
Similarly, the ultimate goal for a brewery facing an OSHA inspection is to avoid getting hit with penalties. The key to achieving that goal is having a sound strategy, being prepared and executing on inspection day. And while gearing up to win a Pac-12 Conference matchup and preparing for an OSHA inspection isn’t exactly apples to apples, there are many key strategies and philosophies utilized by local coaches that can apply to creating a safe workplace.
1. Be prepared (and challenge your prep work)
Washington’s football coach Chris Petersen made a name for himself by consistently beating big-time college football programs. He did that by preparing for those games weeks in advance. He’s also known for fielding dominant and versatile defenses that perform well against all kinds of attacking offenses. Like Petersen, breweries should be extremely prepared for OSHA inspections by creating robust safety and training programs. In addition, breweries should challenge their safety policies by inviting safety analysts and consultants to analyze those programs in order to learn and improve.
2. Have a clear leader that engages OSHA
Former Oregon coach Chip Kelly was always clear that his team’s performance rested on his shoulders. He even refunded an unhappy fan’s travel expenses after the infamous “LeGarrette Blount Punch” soured Chip’s very first game as Oregon’s head coach (a loss at Boise State). Similarly, breweries should have a designated safety supervisor who’s responsible for safety inspections. When the OSHA investigator arrives, employees should know that the safety supervisor is in charge, and that all communication on behalf of the brewery should flow through him or her.
3. Know the rules
While Pete Carroll’s teams have had their fair share of off-the-field rules issues, the Seahawks coach has never been shy about his knowledge of the rules or challenging officials during the game. If he thinks officials are wrong, he lets them know. Like Carroll, it’s essential that each brewery’s safety supervisor understands OSHA’s rules. A knowledgeable safety supervisor would know that he or she can limit the inspection to focus solely on the stated reason OSHA is there in the first place.
4. Focus on yourself and don’t make excuses
Washington State coach Mike Leach demands that his players focus on perfecting each play with 100 percent effort, and that excuses for anything less is intolerable. Leach insists that focus and effort will result in victory. Like Leach, breweries facing an OSHA inspection should insist that OSHA focuses solely on the issue at hand. Other matters should not be discussed. At the same time, safety supervisors should make sure that interviewed employees don’t make excuses or hide the ball; honesty is imperative.
5. Learn from mistakes
Former Oregon State coach Mike Riley’s teams always seemed to get better as the season progressed. Mike Riley identified his team’s weaknesses early on and adjusted accordingly. Likewise, where workplace safety issues are identified, breweries should not only contest citations with plausible defenses, they should also learn from their experience and reevaluate their processes to avoid future hazard complaints.
6. Most importantly, be professional
Stanford’s David Shaw is widely regarded as the consummate professional. He treats his opposition with respect. The ultimate purpose of an OSHA inspection is to keep employees safe. Being unprofessional or rude to an OSHA inspector will only make things more difficult. Professionalism can never hurt you.
This article was inspired by Chris’ colleague from Charlotte, N.C., Travis Vance, who recently wrote about Fisher Phillips’ workplace safety by describing how Alabama football coach Nick Saban would handle the responsibilities of a safety supervisor.