As we approach the end of 2013, here is a list of legal reminders that we often think about with respect to our manufacturing/distributing clients:

Pam (OSHA/Environmental):

  • Resiliency – This will be one of the new watch words in 2014.  It means being prepared for the unexpected, like unusual weather events.  Is your business prepared?  New England, as a coastal area, has been hard hit.  Are you ready for flooding?  Loss of power?  How can your employees get to work when there’s an unusual weather event?  Where do you store your hazardous chemicals?  Where do you get water for your facility?  Is this perhaps a business opportunity for your company?  Check out this United Nations report – Business and Climate Change Adaptation: Toward Resilient Companies and Communities.
  • Recordkeeping and training – Don’t forget the basics.  Are you up to date on your EHS training?  For example, did you conduct HazCom training in December 2013?  How’s your recordkeeping?  For example, are you getting ready for your Tier II filings in March?  Recordkeeping and training are some of the most frequently cited violations, and the easiest violations to avoid.

Jeff (Litigation/Corporate Compliance):

  • Litigation Audit – For companies that have a calendar year-end, this is the time that auditors will be asking about the status of litigation.  This is a good opportunity to consider the big picture.  Is the litigation going the way you had hoped?  Is there a timetable and/or strategy for resolution?  If not, are you prepared to take the case to trial and manage the associated risk/expenses for doing so?  I tell my clients to look for the point of maximum leverage and be prepared to act when that moment arrives.  A proactive mindset from the beginning is essential with litigation or the costs may spiral out of control.
  • Workplace Accidents This is also a good time to meet and discuss (potentially through your company’s safety committee) your Injury and Illness (OSHA 300) logs to determine whether there are any trends for the year with respect to workplace accidents.  Workplace accidents are not only a potential source of litigation, but they also impact insurance premiums.

Nicole (Labor/Employment):

  • Policy Audit – An annual policy audit is essential at year end, or earlier, if new legislation is enacted during the calendar year.  There have been several amendments to the federal Family Medical Leave Act this year and if corporate policies and forms have not been revised to address these changes, now is the time.  The DOL recently pledged $3.4 million dollars for FMLA enforcement in 2014.  Other policy provision that should be reviewed for compliance include:  referenced position titles and departments – are they updated to reflect current practices and organizational structure; internal complaint reporting procedures – are the outlined procedures working and are they updated to reflect the appropriate person and/or title of the employee who is to receive complaints?
  • Notice Posting Requirements – A review of any state and federal legal posting requirements should also be part of any annual audit.  Connecticut’s Fair Employment Practices Act was revised several years ago and I continue to see outdated posters.  The updated version may be found here.  Manufacturers with bilingual workforces should also take note that bilingual posters may be required.  For example, the FMLA requires that where an employer’s workforce “is comprised of a significant portion of workers who are not literate in English, the employer shall provide the general notice in a language in which the employees are literate.” 29 C.F.R. 825.300(a)(4).  The Spanish FMLA poster may found here.
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Pamela Elkow

I’m a partner in Robinson+Cole’s Environmental and Utilities Practice Group. I’ve been practicing law with a focus on environmental and health and safety issues for over 20 years. I work with a wide variety of clients, ranging from Fortune 50 companies and large…

I’m a partner in Robinson+Cole’s Environmental and Utilities Practice Group. I’ve been practicing law with a focus on environmental and health and safety issues for over 20 years. I work with a wide variety of clients, ranging from Fortune 50 companies and large institutions such as universities, to small, closely-held businesses and municipalities. Here’s the link to my full and official bio.

Many of my clients are manufacturers with ongoing environmental, health and safety issues associated with their business operations. I advise them on day-to-day compliance and permitting issues, work with them to compile or review health and safety manuals, and defend them against enforcement actions resulting from allegations of violations of environmental or occupational health and safety regulations. I see myself as part of the client team – my task is not just to raise issues and liabilities, but to work with the client to come up with cost-effective, practical solutions to those issues, and to minimize liabilities. To do that, I need to know the business – what do they make and how do they make it? I’m comfortable talking to management, or the folks on the floor. Getting to know the business and how the client does what they do – that’s what drives me to work with manufacturers. I’m never happier than when learning how something works, how something is made, or just something new.

Photo of Jeffrey White Jeffrey White

I am a partner at Robinson+Cole who handles corporate compliance and litigation matters for both domestic and international manufacturers and distributors that make and ship products around the world. My clients have ranged from publicly traded Fortune 500 companies to privately held and/or…

I am a partner at Robinson+Cole who handles corporate compliance and litigation matters for both domestic and international manufacturers and distributors that make and ship products around the world. My clients have ranged from publicly traded Fortune 500 companies to privately held and/or family owned manufacturers. For those looking for my detailed law firm bio, click here.

I am often asked why I have focused a large part of my law practice on counseling manufacturers and distributors. As with most things in life, the answer to that question is tied back to experiences I had well before I became a lawyer. My grandfather spent over 30 years working at a steel mill (Detroit Steel Company), including several years in its maintenance department. One of my grandfather’s prime job duties was to make sure that the equipment being used was safe. In his later years, he would apply those lessons learned in every project we did together as he passed on to me his great respect and pride for the manufacturing industry.

Because of these experiences, I not only feel comfortable advising executives in a boardroom, but also can easily transition to the factory floor. My experience has involved a range of industries, including aerospace and defense, chemicals, energy, pharmaceuticals and life sciences, nutritional and dietary supplements, and retail and consumer products. While I have extensive experience in litigation (including product liability and class actions), I am extremely proactive about trying to keep my clients out of the courtroom if at all possible. Specifically, I have counseled manufacturers and distributors on issues such as product labeling and warranties, product recalls, workplace safety/OSHA, anti-trust, and vendor relations, among other things. I always look for the business-friendly solution to a problem that may face a manufacturer or distributor and I hope this blog will help advance those efforts.