Robert J. O’Hara, Of Counsel in the Employment, Labor & Workforce Management practice, in the firm’s New York office, was quoted in Corporate Counsel, in “Even as Multimillion-Dollar Fines Pile Up, Dollar General Says It's Making 'Sustained Effort' on Safety,” by Chris O’Malley. (Read the full version – subscription required.)

Following is an excerpt:

Even as it defends against a shareholder lawsuit alleging a failure of internal controls to address safety issues at its stores, Dollar General has been cited for another $3.4 million in penalties by federal regulators.

The latest citations of stores in Maine, Ohio, North Dakota and Wisconsin bring to $21 million in proposed penalties assessed against the Goodlettsville, Tennessee-based company since 2017.

That’s up sharply from the $15 million total as of February. …

Robert O’Hara, an attorney specializing in employment law and compliance at Epstein Becker & Green in New York, told in February that once a company finds itself on OSHA’s radar it generally stays there until the company has proved it has made necessary improvements.

“A smart organization is going to sit back and take stock and figure out what the heck is going on,” said O’Hara, who is not involved in the case. “Your fiduciary duty is to make sure you are compliant.”

O’Hara said that, in his experience, boards have taken safety issues seriously, given the financial and reputational harm that can occur, along with the implications for employee recruitment and retention.

Companies should assess whether employee handbooks and training are adequate, he recommended. At the same time, companies need an alerting or reporting system to capture and document concerns. There should also be protections for whistleblowers, which regulators have been keen to see, O’Hara said.

In addition, companies could consider looking at best practices used by peers and, if necessary, call in a third-party firm to review the situation.

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