Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.
Emily Spieler, an academic and employee advocate, has been selected as the Obama Transition Team leader on issues related to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. As such, Spieler will be charged with, among other things, vetting candidates for the position of Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA.
Spieler is currently the Dean and Edwin W. Hadley Professor of Law at Northeastern University School of Law in Boston. Prior to teaching, she worked as a public interest attorney, focusing her practice on the legal problems of workers, particularly those injured on the job. Her positions include serving as a special assistant attorney general for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health's Lead Poisoning Prevention Division, Commissioner of West Virginia’s Workers’ Compensation Fund, and West Virginia’s first deputy attorney general for civil rights. Spieler has also served as a member of the state’s Human Rights Commission. Additionally, she has held a position on the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
Spieler is a very accomplished individual and seems to be more than qualified to implement Obama’s vision for OSHA. She has written extensively on workers’ compensation and occupational safety issues, and, according to all indications, is a proponent of legal intervention in the private sector to encourage and promote workplace safety. For instance, she would likely support providing employees with additional avenues of recovery for workplace injuries; encouraging safety through the use of inspections and greater oversight in the workplace; increasing the use of penalties to gain compliance; and better review of the process for rulemaking and enforcement.
Obama has a clear vision that OSHA will be a very active, well supported agency. The selection of Spieler is another indication that the Obama Administration will stand behind its goal of focusing on increasing workplace safety oversight and enforcement. Spieler has already received requests that the next Assistant Secretary of Labor have an extensive background and training in occupational health and safety and a lifelong commitment to occupational health and safety. In addition to these traits, Spieler will certainly seek out candidates that support the reintroduction and implementation of ergonomics regulations; implementation of more extensive combustible dust standards; and other workplace safety programs that will increase employer obligations to provide safer workplaces. Spieler may be in charge of this vetting process, but she would seem to make the best candidate for the possession herself, and if not her, it will certainly be someone who shares her vision on safety in the workplace.
Jeremy Stewart, an associate in Littler’s Chicago office, and Littler’s Workplace Safety Team contributed to this article.