Trump Taps GOP Occupational Safety Commissioner for Second Term

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By Lars-Eric Hedberg

The independent federal body overseeing occupational safety and health violation disputes won’t—as attorneys and safety groups feared—drop down to one member for long.

President Donald Trump April 21 nominated the current acting Chairman Heather L. MacDougall, whose term expires on April 27, to serve as commissioner for a second term on the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Trump did not nominate a third member to round out the body. The review commission, which is the final layer of administrative appeal before a federal appeals court, has operated without a full complement of members since April 2015.

“She will be the only Republican, and given a Republican administration, she will be the de facto chair, at least until another nominee is confirmed,” Marc Freedman, executive director of labor law policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told Bloomberg BNA. " It preserves the current formulation and doesn’t change much.”

Labor and employee groups also expect more of the same, assuming the Senate confirms MacDougall.

“She hasn’t been the best friend of workers,” Peg Seminario, director of safety and health at AFL-CIO, told Bloomberg BNA. “We expect the same views and opinions as her first term.”

President Barack Obama nominated MacDougall to the review commission in 2014, and the Senate unanimously confirmed her appointment.

“We’ve seen under previous administrations that it is common practice for the controlling party to fill two seats and the third goes to the other party,” Debbie Berkowitz, senior fellow in the worker safety and health program at the National Employment Law Project, told Bloomberg BNA. “When the administration fills the third spot, they will probably decide who will be chair.”

Berkowitz added that the administration may be waiting for the Senate to confirm Andrew Acosta as Labor Secretary before nominating a third commissioner.

The Next Chairman?

Prior to her appointment MacDougall practiced employment, labor and occupational safety and health law at Akerman LLP in West Palm Beach, Fla., according to a statement released by the White House. She also served as chief counsel for former review commission Chairman W. Scott Railton.

Trump promoted MacDougall, a Republican, to acting-chair in late January shortly after Inauguration Day.

“In her absence during the confirmation process, former chairman and current Commissioner Cynthia L. Attwood would serve as acting chair,” Tressi Cordaro, a principal in the Reston, VA office of Jackson Lewis, PC, told Bloomberg BNA.

“Given her experience as a commissioner and her time working for it, there is nothing to suggest she won’t be the permanent chair after confirmation,” Cordaro said.

Ultimately, who chairs the review commission is left to the president’s discretion.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lars-Eric Hedberg in Washington, D.C. at lhedberg@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

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