Calif. Employers Are Not Required To Reimburse Restaurant Workers For the Cost of Slip-Resistant Shoes

By Megan Shaked and Andrew J. Sommer

A recent California Court of Appeals decision in Townley v. BJ’s Restaurants, Inc., has further defined the scope of reimbursable business expenses under California Labor Code section 2802, this time in the context of slip-resistant shoes for restaurant workers.

A former server filed an action under the California Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA), seeking civil penalties on behalf of herself and other “aggrieved employees” for California Labor Code violations, including the failure to reimburse the cost of slip-resistant shoes.  Plaintiff alleged a violation of Labor Code section 2802, which requires an employer to reimburse employees for all necessary expenditures incurred by the employee in direct consequence of the discharge of their duties.

Plaintiff argued that, because the restaurant required employees to wear slip-resistant, black, closed-toes shoes for safety reasons, such shoes should be provided free of cost or employees should be reimbursed for their cost.

The Court of Appeal, persuaded by the reasoning in an unpublished Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision, Lemus v. Denny’s, Inc., and guidance from the California’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE), held that section 2802 did not require the restaurant employer to reimburse its employees for the cost of slip-resistant shoes.  Specifically, the Court held that the cost of shoes does not qualify as a “necessary expenditure” under section 2802.

In reaching its decision, the Court Continue reading

Delinquent State OSH Agencies Adopt E-Recordkeeping; Calif. Employers to Submit 2017 Injury Data by Year End

By Andrew Sommer, Megan Shaked, and Dan Deacon

As we have reviewed previously on the OSHA Defense Report, federal OSHA’s Rule to “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses” (aka the E-Recordkeeping Rule) requires small employers that operate in certain “high hazard industries” and all large employers to proactively submit their electronic injury and illness data to OSHA through a web portal – the Injury Tracking Application (“ITA”).

When federal OSHA promulgated the Rule in 2016, E-Recordkeeping Ruleit built into the Rule a mandate that all State Plans adopt substantially identical requirements within six months after its publication.  Implementation of the federal Rule, however, has been mired in difficulty from industry challenges, shifting guidance, informal changes, extended deadlines and mixed signals about the future of the rule as we transitioned from the Obama administration to the Trump administration.  As a result, numerous State OSH programs failed to initially adopt the rule.  After some headbutting with federal OSHA, almost all of the delinquent states, including California, have now implemented rules to “catch-up” to the federal OSHA data submission rule.

Delinquent State Plans Began Adopting E-Recordkeeping

In the midst of uncertainty surrounding federal OSHA’s E-Recordkeeping Rule, several State Plans delayed adopting state versions, even after OSHA made it clear that state plans needed to act soon.  While the majority of State Plans acted promptly to promulgate their own version of the E-Recordkeeping rule by the end of 2017, eight State Plans had not yet adopted the rule, including:

  • California (Cal/OSHA);
  • Washington (WA DLI, WISHA, or DOSH);
  • Maryland (MOSH);
  • Minnesota (MNOSHA);
  • South Carolina (SC OSHA);
  • Utah (UOSH);
  • Wyoming (Wy OSHA); and
  • Vermont (VOSHA)

Give the substantial number of State Plans that failed to comply with the Rule’s order, federal OSHA attempted to force covered employers in these State Plans to submit 300A data despite not being subject to the rule or federal OSHA’s jurisdiction.  Specifically, on April 30, 2018, federal OSHA issued a Continue reading

Cal/OSHA Compels Hospitality Employers to Clean Up Their Act, Ergonomically Speaking

By Aaron R. Gelb and Andrew J. Sommer

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are the single most common type of work-related injury, but federal OSHA has struggled for decades to develop a coherent regulatory and/or enforcement strategy to address the hazards that cause these ergonomic injuries.  Where federal OSHA fell short, the State of California has picked up the slack, with Cal-OSHA recently finalizing a safety standard regarding Housekeeping Musculoskeletal Injury Prevention.  The standard, which will go into effect this summer applies to all lodging establishments that offer sleeping accommodations available to be rented by members of the public, and requires operators to develop, implement and maintain a written Musculoskeletal Injury Prevention Program tailored to hazards associated with housekeeping.

Background About Ergonomics

An ergonomic hazard is a physical factor within the work environment that has the potential to cause a musculoskeletal disorder (MSD).  MSDs are injuries and disorders that affect the human body’s movement or musculoskeletal system; i.e., muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, discs, blood vessels, etc.  Common ergonomic hazards include repetitive movement, manual handling, workplace design, uncomfortable workstation height, and awkward body positioningThe most frequent ergonomic injuries (or musculoskeletal disorders) include muscle/tendon strains, sprains, and back pains, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Tendonitis, Degenerative Disc Disease, Ruptured / Herniated Disc, etc., caused by performing the same motion over and over again (such as vacuuming), overexertion of physical force (lifting heavy objects), or working while in an awkward position (twisting your body to reach up or down to perform a work task).

MSDs are the single most common type of work related injury.  According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, MSDs alone account for nearly 30% of all worker’s compensation costs.  OSHA estimates that work-related MSDs in the U.S. alone account for over 600,000 injuries and illnesses (approx. 34% of all lost workdays reported to the BLS), and employers spend as much as $20 billion a year on direct costs for MSD-related injuries and up 5x that on indirect costs (e.g., lost productivity, hiring and training replacement workers, etc.).

Federal OSHA’s Ergonomics Enforcement Policy

Nevertheless, federal OSHA has been lost in the woods for years searching for a coherent ergonomics enforcement policy.  In the final days of the Clinton Administration in November 2000, federal OSHA promulgated an extremely controversial midnight Ergonomics Standard, requiring employers to take measures to curb ergonomic injuries in the workplace.  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

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

Welcome to the OSHA Defense Report Blog!

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The national OSHA – Workplace Safety Practice Group at Conn Maciel Carey is proud to launch The OSHA Defense Report!

The OSHA Defense Report is a blog designed to bring you recent developments in workplace safety and health law, but not just to tell you that something has happened, but to talk about why you should care, and how it will affect you and your Company.CMC Logo

We started the OSHA Defense Report because we frequented several useful blogs dedicated to practical day-to-day workplace safety & health issues, but none that dive deep into workplace safety & health legal and regulatory issues. This blog is intended to fill that void.

The OSHA Defense Report will be the place to go to learn about the significance of new OSHA law developments, such as OSHA enforcement trends and initiatives, new interpretations and Review Commission decisions, and relevant OSHA policy and Rulemaking issues.  We will offer practical advice with creative solutions with the goal to provide guidance to minimize exposure to costly liability.  We hope you visit this site often and provide us with your feedback on what topics you are interested in.

Enjoy!