Some major alleged labor violations at a pair of Market Basket stores have mushroomed into a franchise-wide issue for parent firm DeMoulas Super Markets, Inc. The problem started in October, when OSHA cited two stores in Concord and Rindge, NH for 30 “willful, repeat, and serious [safety] violations.” The violations mostly centered around laceration and falling hazards. Boston.com’s Jenn Abelson reported one of the most dramatic safety stories:
“The inspection of the Market Basket store in Rindge began after an employee sustained broken bones and head trauma earlier this year when he fell 11 feet to a concrete floor from an inadequately guarded storage mezzanine, according to the press release.. Rather than call for emergency help, store management lifted the injured worker from the floor, put him in a wheelchair, and pushed him to the store’s receiving dock to wait for a relative to take him to the hospital.”
OSHA wound up slapping DeMoulas with a $589,000 fine. But that wasn’t the end of the issue.
Now, the Union-Leader reports OSHA has filed a request with the Labor Department’s regional solicitor in Boston to force DeMoulas to systematically bring all Marketbasket stores into compliance.
“’Hazardous conditions at multiple locations that expose employees to serious injuries demand a swift and comprehensive corrective response at the corporate level,’ Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Dr. David Michaels said in a statement. ‘OSHA insists that this employer completely and effectively eliminate the hazards it never should have allowed to exist in the first place.’
Market Basket is contesting those citations before the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.”
This would be a big undertaking for DeMoulas, which owns 66 stores in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. This case is unusual because:
“It is only the second time the Labor Department has sought enterprise-wide relief from the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, according to a press release. The first time was against the U.S. Postal Service in July 2010 for correction of electrical work safety violations at 350 postal facilities throughout the nation. That matter is pending.
Market Basket attorney [James F.] Laboe said, ‘Quite frankly, I’ve been doing this for over 10 years, and I do not think that the Occupational Safety and Health Act authorizes this kind of broad relief, but it’s never been tested before.
‘It would be a case of first impression if we end up continuing to dispute that issue,’ he said.”
Meanwhile, since the fine levied against DeMoulas is more than $100,000, the firm is in non-binding mediation with the Labor Department. The two sides are set to sit down again in mediation sessions at the end of March.