Gurbir S. Grewal, New Jersey attorney general, speaks at Seton Hall University School of Law in February 2018. Photo by Carmen Natale.

The rollback of rules at the U.S. Department of Labor requiring large employers to report workplace injuries and illnesses has drawn a challenge from attorneys general in six states.

The action by New Jersey, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota and New York says the Department of Labor acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner on Jan. 25 when it rolled back a 2016 rule governing reporting of injuries.

That rule, which requires large employers to submit information annually from three different workplace injury and illness tracking forms that employers were already required to maintain, was intended to help the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and employers identify safety hazards and encourage their abatement. But three years later, OSHA reversed course, claiming that the rule provided little benefit and undermined workers’ privacy, according to the state’s lawsuit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

In making the change, the Department of Labor violated the Administrative Procedures Act by failing to provide the significant justification that the act demands, including showing there are good reasons for the new policy, the suit argues. That burden is especially important where a new policy rests on factual findings that contradict those which underlay its prior policy, according to the suit. The states seek declaratory and injunctive relief vacating the 2019 final rule and preventing its implementation.

Before the 2016 rule change, employers were required to keep records of workplace injuries on three forms: Form 300, which provides basic information about each incident and its outcome; Form 300A, which provides a summary of the number, types and outcomes of all injuries; and Form 301, which provides a more detailed account of each injury and how it occurred, as well as information about the employer’s line of business. Employers were required to keep completed forms on file and to make them available to federal or state inspectors on request.

The 2016 rule change required companies with 250 or more employees to annually submit information from the three forms to the Department of Labor, which intended to make the information available online after removal of personally identifiable information.

The suit names the Department of Labor, OSHA, Labor Secretary R. Alexander Acosta and acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Loren Sweatt as defendants. New Jersey is the lead agency on the plaintiff side of the suit.

“By making public reports of workplace injuries and illnesses harder to access, the Trump Administration is jeopardizing the health, safety, and wellness of our workers,” New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement. “Simply put: we cannot properly tackle workplace safety issues if we do not know about them.”

“Public reporting of workplace safety information helps states enforce our labor laws, forces employers to remove hazards, and empowers workers to demand improvements,” New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said in a statement. “Workers deserve that transparency, and the federal government should not be trying to take it away.”

The suit by the state attorneys general follows a similar challenge to the rollback of reporting requirements that was filed in January by Public Citizen and two public health organizations.

A media contact at the Department of Labor did not respond to a request for comment.