Martin J. Walsh v. Walmart, Inc., No. 21-486 (2d Cir. 2022)Annotate this Case
The Department of Labor brought a petition seeking review of a final order issued on December 31, 2020 by the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. The Commission found the phrase “stored in tiers” in the second sentence of 29 C.F.R. Section 1910.176(b) did not apply to pallets of merchandise located in a Walmart Distribution Center in Johnstown, New York.
The Secretary argued that the Commission erred in finding Section 11 1910.176(b) inapplicable to Walmart’s tiered storage system because it unambiguously includes material placed or arranged one above another in tiered storage racks, such as the system used at the Distribution Center. Alternatively, the Secretary also argued that if the Court found the regulation ambiguous, the Court should defer to the Secretary’s reasonable interpretation.
The Second Circuit vacated and remanded finding that the Secretary of Labor’s interpretation was reasonable. The court explained that the Commission’s cramped definition ignores other types of tiers, including seating arrangements at sporting events and music venues with layers of seats that are independently supported and placed one over the other with gaps between them. There is nothing inconsistent in the remaining language of the standard that militates against an interpretation that shelves can be tiers. Here, the pallets stored on the selective racking became unstable and merchandise on the pallets fell. Accordingly, the court concluded that the Secretary’s competing interpretation of the language of the standard is reasonable.