Dollar General Faces Renewed Scrutiny of Work Conditions

Allen Smith, J.D. By Allen Smith, J.D. March 29, 2023

​In 2022, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) bolstered Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP) named Dollar General as the first company to be added under the program's expanded reach. Recently, the company's safety record has been in the news. Dollar General said its stores are safe and it is responsive to concerns. We've gathered articles on the latest developments from SHRM Online and other news outlets.

More than $15.5 Million in Penalties

Since January 2017, OSHA has inspected more than 270 Dollar General stores and found 111 instances of workplace safety violations. The agency has imposed more than $15.5 million in penalties during that period, according to data provided by a White House official. The company has 19,000 stores in the U.S.—approximately twice as many sites as Walmart and Target combined.

"We regularly review and refine our safety programs, and reinforce them through training, ongoing communication, recognition and accountability," Dollar General said. "When we learn of situations where we have failed to live up to this commitment, we work to timely address the issue and ensure that the company's expectations are clearly communicated, understood and implemented."

Dollar General remains profitable, filling a void in rural areas and impoverished urban neighborhoods, where there often aren't many other retailers selling inexpensive food and household staples. Its stock price has doubled over the past five years.

(The New York Times)

Alleged Violations Found in Cincinnati

Most recently, OSHA inspectors found exit routes, doors and fire extinguishers were blocked at a Dollar General store in Cincinnati. "Fast access to fire extinguishers and exit doors and the routes to them are a matter of life and death in an emergency, and yetdespite millions in fines and safety violations at more than 180 locationsDollar General continues to repeatedly ignore these conditions and risk the safety of their employees," said Ken Montgomery, OSHA's area director in Cincinnati.


Shareholder Proposals

This proxy season, there are several proposals calling for an independent audit of workplace health and safety at Dollar General. The company has hotlines and surveys to get feedback from workers, but these aren't capturing all the safety risks. The latest shareholder proposals aim to have workers and community members participate in an independent audit.

(Proxy Preview)

Wide Range of OSHA Penalties

OSHA penalties for violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act vary based on several factors.

"There's really no typical penalty because penalty assessment will differ based on statutory factors including gravity of hazard, good faith of employer, size of the business and history of violations," said John Ho, an attorney with Cozen O'Connor in New York City.

(SHRM Online)

OSHA Expands Who May Wind Up on Its Severe Violator List

OSHA announced last year that it was expanding the criteria for placement on its SVEP list. The result will be more employers on the list with beefed-up enforcement against them. OSHA is including "more mundane violations" as qualifying employers for inclusion on the list, said David Smith, an attorney with Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete in Atlanta. Employers' greatest risk is being cited for two repeat violations at one site, which will happen all too easily, he cautioned. Smith said employers consequently may want to fight the "little citations"; otherwise, they may have to face the consequences of being on the SVEP list.

(SHRM Online)



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