Labor no longer sees Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Program

The U.S. Department of Labor announced a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking seeking public comment on a proposal to eliminate the Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Program (IRAP), allowing the agency to direct resources toward expanding access to the established Registered Apprenticeships programs. The proposed rule is the latest action responding to White House Executive Order 14016, including the suspension of review of applications for Standard Recognition Entities (SRE) in IRAP. The proposal is part of a larger effort aimed at expanding and strengthening the Labor Department’s Registered Apprenticeship model.

The proposed rule would rescind the regulatory framework used to establish and govern IRAPs; if finalized, the Labor Department will work with previously recognized SREs and IRAPs to explore options to become program sponsors or intermediaries under the Registered Apprenticeship system. In the Notice, the agency contends that IRAPs created a duplicative system that could lead to lower quality standards for training and poorer safety and welfare protections for apprentices compared to Registered Apprenticeships. Unlike IRAPs, Labor officials suggest, Registered Apprenticeships are also required to provide apprentices with progressively increasing wages, which serve as an important incentive to attract and recruit program candidates while developing a pipeline of local, diverse, well-trained workers to meet talent needs across a diverse array of industries, and increase U.S. workforce competitiveness.

A federal whistleblower investigation led the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration to order a Houston mobile crane rental company to pay a former employee nearly $24,000 in back wages, interest and damages after the worker’s June 2020 firing for refusal to drive in excess of federal limits and reported fatigue.

OSHA determined that Crane Masters Inc., which provides hydraulic truck cranes and rigging services to construction customers, violated the Surface Transportation Assistance Act when it retaliated against the employee for invoking Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration safe driving limits. The employee worked 19 hours the day prior to termination, and could not get the required time off before returning to work—making it unsafe to operate a commercial vehicle. An investigation led Apprenticeship Program to order the company to pay the driver nearly $14,000 in back wages, interest and compensatory damages, plus $10,000 in punitive damages. 

“Crane Masters punished a driver who refused to jeopardize their safety and that of others on the road by violating federal laws that restrict how many hours a truck driver may operate a commercial vehicle each day,” says OSHA Regional Administrator Eric Harbin in Dallas. “Commercial truck drivers, mechanics and other workers are critical to our nation’s transportation infrastructure and our economy, but they should never be forced to put themselves or others at risk because of an employer’s concern for profit, or fear retaliation for exercising their legal rights.”

The OSHA Whistleblower Protection Program enforces provisions of more than 20 whistleblower statutes protecting employees from retaliation for reporting violations of various workplace safety and health, commercial motor carrier, environmental and other laws or engaging in other related protected activities.