Most prosecutors will tell you that the cover-up is often worse than the underlying crime. This adage was again proven correct earlier this month when OSHA announced that the U.S. Department of Justice had obtained federal grand jury indictments of a general manager and human resources and safety manager who allegedly sought to obstruct an OSHA investigation of a workplace fatality at their Ohio aluminum plant.
According to OSHA, after the fatality the two indicted managers tried to get employees to provide false statements to the investigator, including threats to terminate employees who told OSHA about earlier safety issues at the facility. The indictment also claims that the managers refused to provide emails and other documents that demonstrated prior knowledge of safety problems.
The indictment includes charges of obstruction of justice, conspiracy, and making false statements to a government official. If convicted, the managers could be facing imprisonment and large fines. No matter how bad a legal compliance situation can appear, attempts to impede or mislead government investigators will undoubtedly make the situation – and the consequences to the company and its managers – even worse.