New Cal/OSHA Issues that California Employers Must Understand [Webinar Recording]

On April 11th, Andrew J. Sommer and Eric J. Conn of Conn Maciel Carey’s national OSHA Practice Group presented a webinar regarding “New Cal/OSHA Issues that California Employers Must Understand.” 

The state of California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH), better known as Cal/OSHA, is perhaps the most aggressive and enforcement-heavy approved state OSH Program in the nation.  California employers face a host of requirements that other employers around the country do not.  Likewise, the Cal/OSHA inspection and appeal process creates several unique landmines for California employers.

In light of new Cal/OSHA standards taking effect in 2017 and others on the horizon, this is the perfect time for companies doing business in the Golden State to revamp their safety programs and take necessary steps to ensure compliance with the latest Cal/OSHA safety regulations.

Participants in this complimentary webinar learned about the following:

  • Cal/OSHA’s New Repeat Violation Rule
  • Cal/OSHA’s New Workplace Violence Rule for Health Care Facilities
  • New Law Mandating the Development of Heat Illness Prevention Regulations for Indoor Workplaces
  • Changes to Cal/OSHA Penalties on the Horizon
  • Other Industry Specific Developments

Here is a link to the recording of the webinar. Continue reading

Cal/OSHA’s Workplace Violence Rules for Health Care Take Effect April 2017

By Andrew J. Sommer and Eric J. Conn

Effective April 1, 2017, a new California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (“Standards Board”) regulation at Title 8, Section 3342 requires certain employers in the health care industry to develop and implement a Workplace Violence Prevention Plan.  The passage of these regulations came after nearly two years of meeting and work within the Agency, and more than two years after the California legislature passed Senate Bill 1299, which instructed the Standards Board to implement these workplace violence regulations.

Rules Apply to Health Care Facilities

Senate Bill 1299 only directed the Standards Board to adopt regulations requiring licensed hospitals to adopt violence prevention plans to protect health care workers and other facility personnel from aggressive and violent behavior.  The regulations that were adopted by the Standards Board, however, apply not just to licensed hospitals, but more broadly to any “health facility,” defined as:

“any facility, place or building that is organized, maintained, and operated for diagnosis, care, prevention or treatment of human illness, physical or mental…to which [] persons are admitted for a 24-hour stay or longer.”

Additionally, the regulations apply to the following facilities regardless of their size or how long a patient stays there:

  1. Home health care and home-based hospice;
  2. Emergency medical services and medical transport, including services provided by firefighters and other emergency responders;
  3. Drug treatment programs;
  4. Outpatient medical services to the incarcerated in correctional and detention settings.

Immediate Requirement to Begin Reporting Violent Incidents

Beginning April 1, 2017, every general acute care hospital, acute psychiatric hospital and special hospital generally must report to the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) any incident involving Continue reading

Trump Taps Fast Food CEO Andrew Puzder for Sec. of Labor: Seismic Shift Coming to DOL Regulatory Agenda

By Andrew J. Sommer and Lindsay A. DiSalvo

President-elect Donald Trump has chosen Andrew Franklin “Andy” Puzder to nominate as his Secretary of Labor, according to Trump’s transition team.  Mr. Puzder is the CEO of CKE Holdings, the parent company of Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr.  He has been a vocal critic of the Obama Labor Department’s overtime regulations and efforts to increase the federal minimum wage. puzderAs Labor Secretary, Mr. Puzder will oversee the federal apparatus that investigates violations of minimum wage, overtime and workplace safety laws and regulations.

Puzder on Wage and Hour Issues

An increase in the federal minimum wage and an expansion in overtime eligibility have been priorities for the outgoing Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez.  On Sec. Perez’s watch, the Department of Labor has issued new overtime regulations increasing the minimum salary threshold level in order to qualify an employee as exempt from overtime.  Mr. Puzder denounced this new overtime rule.  In an op-ed piece earlier this year in Forbes, Puzder said:

“[the overtime regulation] will add to the extensive regulatory maze the Obama Administration has imposed on employers, forcing many to offset increased labor expense by cutting costs elsewhere. . . .  [This cost cutting would result in reduced opportunities, bonuses, benefits and promotions.]”

The status of the new overtime rule is presently uncertain after a Texas federal court temporarily blocked the rule from taking effect.  The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has just granted the Department of Labor’s request to expedite the appeal from that preliminary injunction order, but that appeal is unlikely to be decided before Trump is inaugurated as the next president on January 20, 2017.  Accordingly, under Mr. Puzder’s leadership, the DOL could very well withdraw the pending appeal before a decision is issued by the Fifth Circuit, and otherwise not support the new overtime rule. Even if the overtime rule eventually takes effect, Puzder’s arsenal will include the authority to engage in rulemaking to roll back or modify the overtime rule, consistent with the notice and comment process under the federal Administrative Procedures Act.

Other immediate measures Puzder could take to shift or reverse the direction of the Obama DOL would be to Continue reading

Low Hanging Grapes – Cal/OSHA Standards Frequently Cited Against Winemakers

By Andrew J. Sommer and Lindsay A. DiSalvo

With the harvest upon us in California wine country, now is a great time to remind wineries and vineyards operating within the Golden Gate of those Cal/OSHA standards most often cited against this industry.  The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA), which is charged with enforcing the state’s workplace safety standards, frequently cites wine industry businesses for failing to comply with several California-unique standards, cal-osha-wine-5such as the heat illness prevention rule and chemical right-to-know hazard communication requirements, as well as failing to comply with confined space and respiratory protection standards. We highlight these key Cal/OSHA standards and their impact on the wine industry.

Vineyards Vexed by Heat Illness Prevention Standard

California has adopted a Heat Illness Prevention Standard (§3395), which initially in 2005 was an emergency regulation. DOSH considers enforcement of the heat illness prevention standard to be a “special emphasis” and, as such, during every compliance inspection involving work sites that may be subject to this requirement, Cal/OSHA inspectors are expected to inquire about and evaluate employers’ Heat Illness Prevention Plan. This is an area of particular scrutiny in the wine industry, where vineyard employees frequently work outdoors, often in high heat conditions. Continue reading

5 Key Cal/OSHA Issues that California Employers Must Understand – [Webinar Recording]

On July 21, 2016, Andrew J. Sommer and Eric J. Conn, of Conn Maciel Carey’s national OSHA Practice, presented a webinar regarding important Cal/OSHA issues that all employers who do business in California must understand.

The state of California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH), better known as Cal/OSHA, is perhaps the most aggressive and enforcement heavy approved state OSH program in the country.  Cal/OSHA faces many fewer bureaucratic and political obstacles than fed OSHA in developing new rules (really legislation).  Accordingly, California employers face a host of requirements that employers around the country do not.  Likewise, the Cal/OSHA inspection and appeal process creates several unique landmines for California employers.

Participants in last week’s webinar learned the following: Continue reading

California “Suitable Seating” – the Legal and Ergonomics Landscape [Webinar Recording]

On Tuesday, May 3, 2016, Andrew J. Sommer (employment law partner at Conn Maciel Carey) and Brandy Ware (PhD Ergonomist and Principal at JFAssociates) presented a webinar about the legal and practical implications of California’s “Suitable Seating” law and litigation landscape.

In advance of the webinar, the employment attorneys at Conn Maciel Carey and the Ergonomics Experts at JFAssociates co-authored a detailed article about the California Supreme Court’s new, significant opinion that changed the landscape of California’s suitable seating in the workplace requirements.  Specifically, the new ruling places the question of whether the “nature of the work reasonably permits the use of seats” squarely at the center of a new cottage industry of class and collective action lawsuits in California.

This joint webinar by Conn Maciel Carey’s Employment Law Practice and the leading ergonomics experts at JFAssociates reviewed:

  1. The California legislation that mandates suitable seating;
  2. The First wave of law suits invoking the suitable seating requirements;
  3. The California Supreme Court’s recent decision and what it means for the future of suitable seating cases; and
  4. Practical and expert witness strategies to avoid and defend against suitable seating law suits.

Here is a link to a recording of the joint suitable seating webinar.

Article: California Supreme Court Ruling on Suitable Seating: Legal and Ergonomics Perspectives

By Andrew J. Sommer, Esq. and Brandy Farris Ware, PhD, CPE, CSSBB

A recent California Supreme Court ruling provides crucial new guidance on how courts should weigh the evidence in so-called “suitable seating” cases, which employee litigants are bringing under the state requirement that employers provide seats to workers where the nature of their work “reasonably permits” the use of seating.

This is a key emerging issue for the Golden State’s business community, with a new cottage industry of lawsuits stemming from a state appellate court decision several years ago allowing “suitable seating” litigation under the California Private Attorney General Act (PAGA). The ruling encouraged new lawsuits because penalties as well as attorney’s fees and costs may be awarded under PAGA.

The California Supreme Court handed down an opinion April 4, 2016 in response to questions posed by two federal lawsuits, setting out new ground rules for what actually constitutes “suitable seating” under the law. Suitable SeatingEmployers with locations in California are well-advised to evaluate their work environments in light of these latest developments and consider the need for workplace safety experts to assess their individual circumstances. Not only can such evaluations, based on the new Supreme Court guidance, help employers head off litigation (or at least reach a favorable outcome if sued), they also can lower other risk factors and costs like worker’s compensation.

The Court adopted a fact-based approach that depends not on the entire job, but on Continue reading

OSHA Impact of NLRB’s Recent Joint-Employer Decision

By Kara M. Maciel, Chair of Conn Maciel Carey’s Labor • Employment Practice and Eric J. Conn, Chair of Conn Maciel Carey’s OSHA Practice

The Browning-Ferris Decision

On August 27, 2015, the National Labor Relations Board (“the Board”) “refined” its standard for determining joint-employer status pursuant to its decision in the Browning-Ferris Industries case.  In a 3-2 party-line decision, the NLRB reversed an August 2014 ruling that found Leadpoint Business Services Inc. to be the sole employer of the workers at the BFI recycling faciliBFI NLRB Casety where the local Teamsters union attempted to organize.  As part of its reversal, the Board announced a new joint-employer standard that is significantly broader and more inclusive than the standard the Board has upheld for the past 30 years.

In its “restatement” of the legal standard, the Board explained that it may find two or more entities are joint employers if:

  1. They are both employers within the meaning of the common law; and
  2. They share or co-determine those matters governing the essential terms and conditions of employment.

In evaluating the control an entity has over essential terms and conditions of employment, the Board will assess the actual exercise of direct and/or indirect control, as well as determine whether such control has been reserved by the entity in question.  To make this determination, the Board will consider, for example, whether an employer has exercised control over terms and conditions of employment indirectly through an intermediary or whether it has reserved the authority to exercise such indirect influence.  The Board also took an inclusive approach in defining the terms and conditions of employment to mean dictating the number of workers to be supplied; controlling scheduling, seniority, and overtime; assigning work; and determining the method and manner of work among other considerations related to hiring, firing, supervision, and wages/hours.

Under its new standard, the Board determined that BFI was a joint employer with Leadpoint because BFI possessed direct and indirect control over essential terms and conditions of employment of the workers supplied by Leadpoint.  It also determined that BFI reserved authority to control such terms and conditions, which added additional support to its finding in favor of joint employer status.

Application of the Browning-Ferris Decision

This new standard adopts more of a “totality of the circumstances” approach, requiring “a full assessment of the facts” in each case.  The dissenting Board members criticized such an approach, pointing out that it provides little to no predictability or certainty in who would be considered a joint-employer, and could potentially allow the most tangential evidence to suffice to support joint-employer status.  The majority, however, responded that a definitive formula is not appropriate for this type of evaluation and that a full assessment of the facts and incidents should prevent a finding of joint-employer status where there is only tenuous indications of control in a relationship.  In its explanation of how the standard will be employed, the majority made clear that a finding of joint-employer status will be a very fact-specific assessment and require a case-by-case analysis of the level of control asserted by the putative joint-employer.

Although the majority claims that this new standard is simply a “return to the traditional test used by the Board,” in actuality this standard is completely different from prior iterations and will significantly expand coverage of thNLRB Logoe joint-employer relationship through consideration of

Continue reading