Police investigators deal daily with crime on the streets in communities across the United States. Today, though, many crimes take place behind the closed doors of companies and public agencies. Illegal activity in the workplace takes many shapes. Employers break laws to maximize profits and fend off competition, and employees break laws to help their companies or to help themselves. Safeguards and protocol help to curb illegal behavior at work, and authorities have established tough laws to penalize those who take crime into the workplace.
Employer Safety Violations
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration sets safety and health standards for the workplace and enforces the standards. OSHA conducts workplace inspections to ensure compliance with various federal safety and health laws. OSHA can assess civil penalties up to $7,000 per violation when it deems there to be a violation that is substantial, and which could cause death or serious physical injury. If OSHA determines that the violations were willful on the part of the employer, it can assess penalties of $5,000 to $70,000 per violation. When a willful violation is found to have resulted in the death of an employee, the violation can include both a civil and criminal penalty. An individual found guilty of a willful violation resulting in death can be sentenced to up to six months in prison and fined up to $250,000. If the company as a whole is deemed guilty, the company can be fined up to $500,000.
Labor Law Violations
Federal and state laws set standards that employers must follow when dealing with both employees and those seeking work. Labor laws set hour and wage rules that employers must follow. The U.S. Department of Labor enforces wage and hours laws. These include requiring employers to pay at least minimum wage and requiring them to pay 1.5 times a normal salary for qualified overtime hours. The department also has special child labor laws. These laws restrict hours and occupations for children less than 16 years of age. Violating labor laws can lead to civil action, including penalties for each violation, and possible criminal action. Employees are encouraged to report violations of labor law in the workplace.
Workplace crime committed by individuals falls into two main categories. The first are corporate crimes, which are committed to benefit the corporation. Examples of corporate crime include purposefully overbilling customers and using customers’ credit card information files to assess bogus charges for services never provided. More often, occupational crimes involve crimes against the employer. For example, some employees steal money or property belonging to the employer. Workplace crimes can lead to criminal arrest and possible imprisonment. Judges also can require convicted occupational criminals to provide restitution to those who were victims of the crime.
To ensure that employees are not punished for reporting their employers’ crimes, the federal government created the whistleblower act in 2008. This program protects employees from being terminated if the employee notifies authorities of wrongdoing by the employer. An office in the U.S. Department of Labor investigates when a whistleblower reports being terminated from a job due to a disclosure.
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