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Chao v. Symms Fruit Ranch, Inc.

ELR Citation: 31 ELR 20492
Nos. 98-71513, 242 F.3d 894/(9th Cir., 03/09/2001)

The court holds that the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission did not exceed its authority in finding that a violation of an Occupational Safety and Health Administration safety regulation was de minimis and, therefore, not assessing a penalty. The Secretary of Labor argued that after she issues a citation and a violation of a safety standard is shown, the commission lacks the authority to deem a violation de minimis and enter no sanction. The court first holds that the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) authorizes the commission to affirm, modify, or vacate the Secretary's citation or proposed penalty, or direct other appropriate relief. Designating a violation of the safety regulations as de minimis falls within these statutory prerogatives. The court also holds that accepting the Secretary's interpretation of the OSH Act would mean that once she issues a citation for a violation of a safety standard and the violation is established, the commission would have no authority to hold that the violation was so negligible or harmless that remediation would be unnecessary. That would be an unreasonable reading of the statute.

Counsel for Petitioner
Lee Grabel
Office of the Solicitor
U.S. Department of Labor
200 Constitution Ave. NW, Rm. N-2700, Washington DC 20210
(202) 219-6666

Counsel for Respondents
Candy W. Dale
Hall, Farley, Oberrecht & Blanton
Key Financial Center
702 W. Idaho St., Ste. 700, Boise ID 83701
(208) 395-8500

Reavley,** J. Before Fernandez and Thomas, JJ.