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e-CFR data is current as of March 27, 2020

Title 29Subtitle BChapter XVII → Part 1975

Title 29: Labor


§1975.1   Purpose and scope.
§1975.2   Basis of authority.
§1975.3   Extent of coverage.
§1975.4   Coverage.
§1975.5   States and political subdivisions thereof.
§1975.6   Policy as to domestic household employment activities in private residences.

Authority: Secs. 2, 3, 4, 8, Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (29 U.S.C. 651, 652, 653, 657); Secretary of Labor's Order No. 12-71 (36 FR 8754).

Source: 37 FR 929, Jan. 21, 1972, unless otherwise noted.

§1975.1   Purpose and scope.

(a) Among other things, the Williams-Steiger Act poses certain duties on employers. This part has the limited purpose and scope of clarifying which persons are considered to be employers either as a matter of interpretation of the intent and terms of the Act or as a matter of policy appropriate to administering and enforcing the Act. In short, the purpose and scope of this part is to indicate which persons are covered by the Act as employers and, as such, subject to the requirements of the Act.

(b) It is not the purpose of this part to indicate the legal effect of the Act, once coverage is determined. Section 4(b)(1) of the Act provides that the statute shall be inapplicable to working conditions to the extent they are subject to another Federal agency's exercise of different statutory authority affecting the occupational safety and health aspects of those conditions. Therefore, a person may be considered an employer covered by the Act, and yet standards issued under the Act respecting certain working conditions would not be applicable to the extent those conditions were subject to another agency's authority.

§1975.2   Basis of authority.

The power of Congress to regulate employment conditions under the Williams-Steiger Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, is derived mainly from the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. (section 2(b), Pub. L. 91-596; U.S. Constitution, Art. I, Sec. 8, Cl. 3; “United States v. Darby,” 312 U.S. 100.) The reach of the Commerce Clause extends beyond Federal regulation of the channels and instrumentalities of interstate commerce so as to empower Congress to regulate conditions or activities which affect commerce even though the activity or condition may itself not be commerce and may be purely intrastate in character. (“Gibbons v. Ogden,” 9 Wheat. 1, 195; “United States v. Darby,” supra; “Wickard v. Filburn,” 317 U.S. 111, 117; and “Perez v. United States,” 91 S. Ct. 1357 (1971).) And it is not necessary to prove that any particular intrastate activity affects commerce, if the activity is included in a class of activities which Congress intended to regulate because the class affects commerce. (“Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States,” 379 U.S. 241; “Katzenbach v. McClung,” 379 U.S. 294; and “Perez v. United States,” supra.) Generally speaking, the class of activities which Congress may regulate under the commerce power may be as broad and as inclusive as Congress intends, since the commerce power is plenary and has no restrictions placed on it except specific constitutional prohibitions and those restrictions Congress, itself, places on it. (“United States v. Wrightwood Dairy Co.,” 315 U.S. 110; and “United States v. Darby,” supra.) Since there are no specific constitutional prohibitions involved, the issue is reduced to the question: How inclusive did Congress intend the class of activities to be under the Williams-Steiger Act?

§1975.3   Extent of coverage.

(a) Section 2(b) of the Williams-Steiger Occupational Safety and Health Act (Public Law 91-596) sets forth the purpose and policy of Congress in enacting this legislation. In pertinent part, that section reads as follows:

(b) Congress declares it to be its purpose and policy, through the exercise of its powers to regulate commerce among the several States and with foreign nations and to provide for the general welfare, to assure so far as possible every working man and woman in the Nation safe and healthful working conditions and to preserve our human resources *  *  *

Congressman William Steiger described the scope of the Act's coverage in the following words during a discussion of the legislation on the floor of the House of Representatives:

The coverage of this bill is as broad, generally speaking, as the authority vested in the Federal Government by the commerce clause of the Constitution (Cong. Rec., vol. 116, p. H-11899, Dec. 17, 1970)

The legislative history, as a whole, clearly shows that every amendment or other proposal which would have resulted in any employee's being left outside the protections afforded by the Act was rejected. The reason for excluding no employee, either by exemption or limitation on coverage, lies in the most fundamental of social purposes of this legislation which is to protect the lives and health of human beings in the context of their employment.

(b) The Williams-Steiger Act includes special provisions (sections 19 and 18(c)(6)) for the protection of Federal and State employees to whom the Act's other provisions are made inapplicable under section 3(5), which excludes from the definition of the term “employer” both the United States and any State or political subdivision of a State.

(c) In the case of section 4(b)(1) of the Act, which makes the Act inapplicable to working conditions to the extent they are protected under laws administered by other Federal agencies, Congress did not intend to grant any general exemptions under the Act; its sole purpose was to avoid duplication of effort by Federal agencies in establishing a national policy of occupational safety and health protection.

(d) Interpretation of the provisions and terms of the Williams-Steiger Act must of necessity be consistent with the express intent of Congress to exercise its commerce power to the extent that, “so far as possible, every working man and woman in the Nation” would be protected as provided for in the Act. The words “so far as possible” refer to the practical extent to which governmental regulation and expended resources are capable of achieving safe and healthful working conditions; the words are not ones of limitation on coverage. The controlling definition for the purpose of coverage under the Act is that of “employer” contained in section 3(5). This term is defined as follows:

(5) The term “employer” means any person engaged in a business affecting commerce who has employees, but does not include the United States or any State or political subdivision of a State.

In carrying out the broad coverage mandate of Congress, we interpret the term “business” in the above definition as including any commercial or noncommercial activity affecting commerce and involving the employment of one or more employees; the term “commerce” is defined in the Act itself, in section 3(3). Since the legislative history and the words of the statute, itself, indicate that Congress intended the full exercise of its commerce power in order to reduce employment-related hazards which, as a whole impose a substantial burden on commerce, it follows that all employments where such hazards exist or could exist (that is, those involving the employment of one or more employees) were intended to be regulated as a class of activities which affects commerce.

§1975.4   Coverage.

(a) General. Any employer employing one or more employees would be an “employer engaged in a business affecting commerce who has employees” and, therefore, he is covered by the Act as such.

(b) Clarification as to certain employers—(1) The professions, such as physicians, attorneys, etc. Where a member of a profession, such as an attorney or physician, employs one or more employees such member comes within the definition of an employer as defined in the Act and interpreted thereunder and, therefore, such member is covered as an employer under the Act and required to comply with its provisions and with the regulations issued thereunder to the extent applicable.

(2) Agricultural employers. Any person engaged in an agricultural activity employing one or more employees comes within the definition of an employer under the Act, and therefore, is covered by its provisions. However, members of the immediate family of the farm employer are not regarded as employees for the purposes of this definition.

(3) Indians. The Williams-Steiger Act contains no special provisions with respect to different treatment in the case of Indians. It is well settled that under statutes of general application, such as the Williams-Steiger Act, Indians are treated as any other person, unless Congress expressly provided for special treatment. “FPC v. Tuscarora Indian Nation,” 362 U.S. 99, 115-118 (1960); “Navajo Tribe v. N.L.R.B.,” 288 F.2d 162, 164-165 (D.C. Cir. 1961), cert. den. 366 U.S. 928 (1961). Therefore, provided they otherwise come within the definition of the term “employer” as interpreted in this part, Indians and Indian tribes, whether on or off reservations, and non-Indians on reservations, will be treated as employers subject to the requirements of the Act.

(4) Nonprofit and charitable organizations. The basic purpose of the Williams-Steiger Act is to improve working environments in the sense that they impair, or could impair, the lives and health of employees. Therefore, certain economic tests such as whether the employer's business is operated for the purpose of making a profit or has other economic ends, may not properly be used as tests for coverage of an employer's activity under the Williams-Steiger Act. To permit such economic tests to serve as criteria for excluding certain employers, such as nonprofit and charitable organizations which employ one or more employees, would result in thousands of employees being left outside the protections of the Williams-Steiger Act in disregard of the clear mandate of Congress to assure “every working man and woman in the Nation safe and healthful working conditions *   *   *”. Therefore, any charitable or non-profit organization which employs one or more employees is covered under the Williams-Steiger Act and is required to comply with its provisions and the regulations issued thereunder. (Some examples of covered charitable or non-profit organizations would be disaster relief organizations, philanthropic organizations, trade associations, private educational institutions, labor organizations, and private hospitals.)

(c) Coverage of churches and special policy as to certain church activities—(1) Churches. Churches or religious organizations, like charitable and nonprofit organizations, are considered employers under the Act where they employ one or more persons in secular activities. As a matter of enforcement policy, the performance of, or participation in, religious services (as distinguished from secular or proprietary activities whether for charitable or religion-related purposes) will be regarded as not constituting employment under the Act. Any person, while performing religious services or participating in them in any degree is not regarded as an employer or employee under the Act, notwithstanding the fact that such person may be regarded as an employer or employee for other purposes—for example, giving or receiving remuneration in connection with the performance of religious services.

(2) Examples. Some examples of coverage of religious organizations as employers would be: A private hospital owned or operated by a religious organization; a private school or orphanage owned or operated by a religious organization; commercial establishments of religious organizations engaged in producing or selling products such as alcoholic beverages, bakery goods, religious goods, etc.; and administrative, executive, and other office personnel employed by religious organizations. Some examples of noncoverage in the case of religious organizations would be: Clergymen while performing or participating in religious services; and other participants in religious services; namely, choir masters, organists, other musicians, choir members, ushers, and the like.

§1975.5   States and political subdivisions thereof.

(a) General. The definition of the term “employer” in section 3(5) of the Act excludes the United States and States and political subdivisions of a State:

(5) The term “employer” means a person engaged in a business affecting commerce who has employees, but does not include the United States or any State or political subdivision of a State.

The term “State” is defined as follows in section 3(7) of the Act:

(7) The term “State” includes a State of the United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, and the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands.

Since States, as defined in section 3(7) of the Act, and political subdivisions thereof are not regarded as employers under section 3(5) of the Act, they would not be covered as employers under the Act, except to the extent that section 18(c)(6), and the pertinent regulations thereunder, require as a condition of approval by the Secretary of Labor of a State plan that such plan:

(6) Contain[s] satisfactory assurances that such State will, to the extent permitted by its law, establish and maintain an effective and comprehensive occupational safety and health program applicable to all employees of public agencies of the State and its political subdivisions, which program is as effective as the standards contained in an approved plan.

(b) Tests. Any entity which has been (1) created directly by the State, so as to constitute a department or administrative arm of the government, or (2) administered by individuals who are controlled by public officials and responsible to such officials or to the general electorate, shall be deemed to be a “State or political subdivision thereof” under section 3(5) of the Act and, therefore, not within the definition of employer, and, consequently, not subject to the Act as an employer.

(c) Factors for meeting the tests. Various factors will be taken into consideration in determining whether an entity meets the test discussed above. Some examples of these factors are:

Are the individuals who administer the entity appointed by a public official or elected by the general electorate?

What are the terms and conditions of the appointment?

Who may dismiss such individuals and under what procedures?

What is the financial source of the salary of these individuals?

Does the entity earn a profit? Are such profits treated as revenue?

How are the entity's functions financed? What are the powers of the entity and are they usually characteristic of a government rather than a private instrumentality like the power of eminent domain?

How is the entity regarded under State and local law as well as under other Federal laws?

Is the entity exempted from State and local tax laws?

Are the entity's bonds, if any, tax-exempt? As to the entity's employees, are they regarded like employees of other State and political subdivisions?

What is the financial source of the employee-payroll?

How do employee fringe benefits, rights, obligations, and restrictions of the entity's employees compare to those of the employees of other State and local departments and agencies?

In evaluating these factors, due regard will be given to whether any occupational safety and health program exists to protect the entity's employees.

(d) Weight of the factors. The above list of factors is not exhaustive and no factor, isolated from the particular facts of a case, is assigned any particular weight for the purpose of a determination by the Secretary of Labor as to whether a given entity is a “State or political subdivision of a State” and, as such, not subject to the Act as an “employer”. Each case must be viewed on its merits; and whether a single factor will be decisive, or whether the factors must be viewed in their relationship to each other as part of a sum total, also depends on the merits of each case.

(e) Examples. (1) The following types of entities would normally be regarded as not being employers under section 3(5) of the Act: the State Department of Labor and Industry; the State Highway and Motor Vehicle Department; State, county, and municipal law enforcement agencies as well as penal institutions; State, county, and municipal judicial bodies; State University Boards of Trustees; State, county, and municipal public school boards and commissions; and public libraries.

(2) Depending on the facts in the particular situation, the following types of entities would probably be excluded as employers under section 3(5) of the Act: harbor districts, irrigation districts, port authorities, bi-State authorities over bridges, highways, rivers, harbors, etc.; municipal transit entities; and State, county, and local hospitals and related institutions.

(3) The following examples are of entities which would normally not be regarded as a “State or political subdivision of a State”, but unusual factors to the contrary in a particular case may indicate otherwise: Public utility companies, merely regulated by State or local bodies; businesses, such as alcoholic beverage distributors, licensed under State or local law; other business entities which under agreement perform certain functions for the State, such as gasoline stations conducting automobile inspections for State and county governments.

§1975.6   Policy as to domestic household employment activities in private residences.

As a matter of policy, individuals who, in their own residences, privately employ persons for the purpose of performing for the benefit of such individuals what are commonly regarded as ordinary domestic household tasks, such as house cleaning, cooking, and caring for children, shall not be subject to the requirements of the Act with respect to such employment.

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