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A labor union representing 55,000 white-collar workers is entitled to state Department of Labor records relating to on-the-job injuries suffered by employees represented by the bargaining organization, an appellate panel in Albany, N.Y., has found. The Appellate Division, 3rd Department, last week unanimously affirmed a decision that afforded the Public Employees Federation (PEF) access to unredacted copies of injury logs maintained by the Labor Department. It rejected the state’s argument that it could, and indeed must, redact what it considers confidential information about individual employees. Goldstein v. New York State Industrial Board of Appeals, 90385, involves a huge and influential public employees’ union. The case arose when a PEF member, Ronald Goldstein of Flushing, N.Y., demanded records pertaining to employees injured at 17 Department of Labor work sites in the New York City area. Goldstein, a member of the PEF executive board and chairman of the PEF-Department of Labor Statewide Joint Health and Safety Committee, sought injury and illness logs maintained by the state. When the Industrial Board of Appeals upheld the state’s right to withhold what it classified as confidential information, Goldstein sued. Supreme court Justice Anthony V. Kane in Albany County found for the union. Last week, the 3rd Department also held that the union is entitled to the information, although for reasons different than those cited by Kane. The case involves both federal and state statutes: the federal Occupational Health and Safety Act, which requires states to establish standards for the health and safety of public employees, and the New York Public Employee Safety and Health Act (PESHA), which requires the state to maintain and make public records of work-related deaths, injuries and illnesses. Here, the Department of Labor in February 1999 agreed to provide Goldstein with limited access to the logs and declined to reveal records listing employees’ names. Justice Kane found for Goldstein, basing his decision on the federal act and case law interpreting it. The 3rd Department said the decision should have been based on New York Labor Law and corresponding regulations but reached the same result. “We are not … persuaded that the Department, under the guise of exercising the discretionary authority generally vested in an administrative agency to construe and interpret its own statutes and regulations, is entitled to redact information otherwise available for inspection,” the panel said through Justice D. Bruce Crew III. “Simply stated, there is nothing in the cited regulation or the enabling legislation that authorizes the Department to redact what it unilaterally has deemed to be confidential information.” The court also rejected the state’s argument that it was compelled under the Freedom of Information Law to redact identifying information. Joining the opinion were Justices Thomas E. Mercure, Edward O. Spain, Anthony J. Carpinello and John A. Lahtinen. Appearing were Elizabeth R. Schuster of PEF and Assistant Attorney General Robert M. Goldfarb. The Communications Workers of America, Transport Workers of America and New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health Inc. all appeared as amicus curiae.

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