Build Certainty in Business by Changing the Law

By on May 10, 2016

Too many lawyers and business leaders overlook one of the best tools in their toolbox.  Changing the law to meet your needs can be your best bet.

One need is certainty.  Knowing that the rules of engagement today will be the same tomorrow.  An unsteady environment is not ideal when you’re growing your business.

To give an example, many employers in construction, manufacturing, energy and other key industries live in fear of the next OSHA inspection.  Left unchecked, OSHA has boosted penalties, exceeded its regulatory authority and targeted handpicked industry sectors.  And with the looming elections this fall, it’s hard to know what direction the next administration will choose.

In Virginia, a group of industry leaders I represent decided to build certainty into their relationships with regulators.  At their behest, Governor Terry McAuliffe (D) worked with Republicans and Democrats to pass a law to make voluntary compliance a permanent part of OSHA in Virginia.

Governor McAuliffe is a smart man.  He knows a good deal when he sees one.  And this bill was a good one for business.

The McAuliffe bill made Virginia’s Voluntary Protection Program (VPP) a permanent part of its OSHA enforcement.  VPP gives employers a unique opportunity to partner with regulators and their workforce to reduce accidents and injuries, boost productivity and save costs.  VPP is a part of their business model.

Nothing happens in state capitols or in Washington by accident.  This was no exception.

As Government Affairs Counsel, I had the pleasure of pulling together a broad array of stakeholders into a winning coalition that included the Virginia Chamber of Commerce, the Virginia Manufacturers’ Association, the American Society of Safety Engineers and the American Industrial Hygiene Association.

Now Congress is following Virginia’s lead.  Last week, U.S. Senators Michael Enzi (R-WY) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) proposed similar legislation (S. 2881) on behalf of employers at 2,200 worksites nationwide.  They joined Congressmen Todd Rokita (R-IN) and Gene Greene (D-TX), Congresswoman Martha Roby (R-AL) and 30 other members of the House who have proposed an identical measure in the U.S. House of Representatives (H.R. 2500).  The Obama Administration proposed budgetary language to support the program.

Certainty is a key component of most business models.  Smart attorneys and industry leaders know how to build that certainly by changing the law.


Courtney Malveaux is a regulatory, government affairs and employment attorney who represents employers in OSHA citations at ThompsonMcMullan, P.C. in Richmond, Virginia.  An experienced litigator, he served as Virginia’s Labor Commissioner through October 2013, and as President of the National Association of Government Labor Officials.  Malveaux represents industrial employers on the Virginia Safety and Health Codes Board, and serves as Counsel to the new Safety and Health Subcommittee of the Virginia Manufacturers Association.  He can be reached at (804) 698-6242 or at