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VICTORY BY TURNING ON THE HEAT
The Judy Hooper Story


 Judy Hooper is the proud owner of Judy's Bakery in Evanston, Illinois, a 30-person store specializing in doughnuts and other assorted bakery items. Grossing about $50,000 a year, Hooper's business is typical of many small business success stories.

In 1994, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) officials conducted an inspection of her bakery as a result of a complaint filed a disgruntled employee alleging violations of worker safety laws. After a three-hour inspection, OSHA officials found no evidence to corroborate the employee's complaint. But that didn't stop them from hitting Hooper with $13,000 in fines for a myriad of trivial workplace violations. Her infractions included: 1) Failing to post a "Material Safety Data Sheet" warning employees of hazardous chemicals. The hazardous substances OSHA claimed threatened worker safety included household bleach and a pink dishwashing liquid, both of which had warning labels. 2) Failing to have a written plan for emergency fire evacuations even though there were four clearly marked exits in the one-story store. 3) Failing to keep an accident log on the shop's wall even though there were no accidents to report.

Hooper was determined to fight OSHA. She went to the local and national media, appearing on such programs as CNN and "Eye to Eye With Connie Chung." With such favorable publicity, she was able to pressure OSHA in reducing the fines to $5,450. For this, she agreed to spend $7,500 on employee health and safety programs.

The Gorge Commission had another 20 days to disapprove the county's approval of the Beas' building application. Again, the Gorge Commission offered no objections and the Beas began building their home.

In hindsight, Hooper says she probably could have avoided paying fines altogether had she chosen to "keep the heat" on the agency. Based on her experience, Hooper says the best way to fight OSHA is to go to the press and expose their heavy-handed behavior to public view. "They are lily-livered cowards who don't like bad publicity."
Source: Judy Hooper

 

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