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Public Citizen v. Department of Labor (COVID-19)

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on workers in meat and poultry processing facilities across the country. In April 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued a “Statement of Enforcement Policy” specifying it would not take enforcement action under the Occupational Safety and Health Act against meat and poultry processing employers that were making “good faith” efforts to comply with non-binding guidance, and that the Department would defend such employers from lawsuits brought under state and local laws.

In May 2020, Public Citizen submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to DOL requesting records regarding the development of the policy, as well as communications between the DOL and the meatpacking industry and between the DOL and the U.S. Department of Agriculture relating to COVID-19 at poultry, beef and pork slaughter and processing facilities. In September 2020, when DOL had still not provided any documents in response to our request, we filed suit to compel DOL to produce the requested records.

DOL produced thousands of pages between September 2020 and November 2021. The parties settled attorney’s fees and stipulated to dismissal of the case in December 2021.