OSHRC Soon to Have Quorum for Decision-Making
On October 9, 2019, President Donald Trump announced his intention to appoint Amanda Wood Laihow to serve as the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission’s (OSHRC) second commissioner. That addition will give the commission its first quorum in five months and enable it to decide the cases pending before it.
Laihow currently serves as the chief counsel to the commission’s chair, James J. Sullivan, Jr., his primary legal advisor. Before she joined the commission’s staff, she served as director of labor and employment policy for the National Association of Manufacturers, where many in the employer community became acquainted with her as an advocate for business in significant issues under the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, the National Labor Relations Act, and employment discrimination laws. Before joining the private sector, Laihow served as deputy general counsel for the U.S. Senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and, before that, as assistant general counsel at the General Services Administration.
The commission has three seats. Since April of 2019, Commissioner Sullivan has been the sole sitting member. The commission’s former chair, Heather MacDougall, resigned her position in the spring of 2019 to become vice president of worldwide safety and health for an online retailer, and the term of Cynthia Atwood, the sole Democrat on the commission and a holdover from the Obama administration, ended on April 27, 2019. Earlier this year, the president named Commissioner Sullivan to succeed Heather MacDougall as the commission’s chair.
Since early May, therefore, the commission has been unable to decide any cases because it needs at least two commissioners to do so. That has been a frustration for all parties in contested citation cases brought before the commission. It also has been a frustration for the commission, itself, which is unable to do the job for which it was created by Congress. The addition of Laihow will allow the commission to address the docket of cases before it and, hence, serves the interests of everyone in the OSHA community.