Davis bill excludes at-home workers from OSHA coverage

Laws that protect workers from federal health and safety violations in the workplace would not apply to employees working at home if a bill introduced last week by Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) is signed into law.

The bill (H.R. 3518) would amend the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 so that workers who worked at home via telephone, computer or other electronic device would not be covered under the law.

In early January, the Labor Department issued — and then later retracted — a policy decision that would have held employers responsible for federal health and safety violations that occur in home offices.

Although the Labor Department rescinded its guidance, a spokesman for Davis said the congressman believes a "legislative remedy" needs to be in place to prevent Labor from considering the issue again in the future and to encourage companies to continue to allow employees to telecommute. The legislation is narrowly targeted because "we don't want to get into an area where OSHA might have a strong reason for walking into people's homes," such as when employees work with hazardous materials, the spokesman said.

Davis' bill, the Telecommuting Choice Act, has been referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

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