WASHINGTON — Anita Drummond, director of Legal and Regulatory Affairs for the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), testified before the House Education and Workforce Committee's Subcommittee on Workforce Protections to express ABC's support for H.R. 2731, The Occupational Safety and Health Small Employer Access to Justice Act of 2003.

Introduced by Rep. Charles Norwood (R-Ga.) on July 15, 2003, H.R. 2731 is intended to level the playing field for a small business when it is cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) by allowing the award of costs and attorney's fees if the small business prevails in its defense.

"Chairman Norwood's proposed legislation represents a small step towards assisting the good actors — and the very smallest companies — that maintain a safe workplace," Drummond said in remarks before the committee. "ABC strongly supports the intention of this legislation to level the playing field between an agency and the very smallest of companies when a citation is made.

"ABC strongly supports H.R. 2731, but recommends it be amended to include a provision that assures awards for costs and attorney's fees are reimbursed directly out of OSHA's budget," stated Drummond. "Without this link between enforcement and litigation, behavioral change is unlikely. Currently such awards under the Equal Access to Justice Act are not paid by the enforcing agency.

"While damaging to all businesses, the costs of defense are particularly harmful to small businesses, like many ABC member firms, that lack the resources to defend against unreasonable prosecution," said Drummond.

Publication date: 09/22/2003