Second Circuit Confirms that Secretary of Labor’s Decision Regarding Which Federal Law Applies is Subject to Chevron Deference


On December 18, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals or the Second Circuit decided the case of Secretary of Labor v. Cranesville Aggregate Companies, Inc., dba Scotia Bag Plant. In this case, the Secretary of Labor sought review of an Administrative Law Judge’s (ALJ) decision that vacated a number of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) workplace violations lodged against Cranesville’s mine facility located in Scotia, NY, in particular, working conditions at a unit known as the “Bag House.” The ALJ was persuaded that this unit was subject to the Secretary of Labor’s authority under the Mine Safety and Health Act, and not the Occupational Safety and Health Act, since the Bag House was principally engaged in milling operations which could be classified as mining activities. The ALJ’s ruling was appealed to the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, which could not render a decision because the two sitting members of the Commission were deadlocked, and so the ALJ’s determinations became final.

On direct appeal to the Second Circuit, the Court of Appeals held that the decision of the ALJ must be reversed because the Secretary of Labor’s determination that this facility was subject to OSHA review and oversight qualified for Chevron deference, and since it was a reasonable interpretation of the statutes involved, the Secretary of Labor’s interpretation must be upheld.