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Opinions Diverge on Tougher Employer Prosecutions for Endangering Workers

A new initiative by U.S. federal agencies to prosecute companies and individuals who endanger the lives of their employees is drawing divergent opinions on its potential impact.

The Department of Labor-Department of Justice initiative announced last month is aimed at addressing limits of workplace safety statutes including the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which allows criminal prosecutions only for willful violations resulting in an employee's death, giving advance notice of an OSHA inspection or falsifying documents. But such charges have been limited to misdemeanors with a maximum six-month jail term and $10,000 fine, which legal experts say has discouraged prosecutions.

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