California Governor Deploys COVID-19 “Strike Force” Over Holiday Weekend to Enforce Workplace Restrictions

By Conn Maciel Carey’s COVID-19 Task Force 

California increased its efforts to combat COVID-19 over the July 4th holiday weekend by deploying multi-agency strike teams to visit or otherwise make contact with businesses to evaluate and enforce compliance with and/or educate them about the State’s numerous COVID-19 orders, directives, and guidance.

The “Strike Force” includes representatives from at least ten different state agencies.  Approximately 100 agents are from the Alcohol Beverage Control agency and the rest from the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA), the California Highway Patrol, the Board of Barbering & Cosmetology, Consumer Affairs, Food and Agriculture, Labor Commissioner’s Office, the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, and other state licensing entities.

Ahead of the July 4th holiday, Governor Newsom ordered bars, indoor restaurants, movie theaters and more to close in a number of counties on a state watch list.  The state monitoring list is ever changing and represents counties with a need for more support and/or enforcement.

Over the holiday, hundreds of state inspectors fanned out across California to enforce health orders related to Coronavirus.

The State’s actions are likely authorized by Executive Order N-33-20, which generally directs all residents immediately to heed current State public health directives to stay home, Calif EOexcept as needed to maintain continuity of operations of essential critical infrastructure sectors and additional sectors as the State Public Health Officer “may designate” as critical to protect health and well-being of all Californians.  As for the crackdown, the actions taken are likely be based on recent Continue reading

Cal/OSHA Establishes a Presumption of Work Relatedness in new COVID-19 Recording and Reporting Guidance

By Conn Maciel Carey’s COVID-19 Task Force

As we previously reported, in early April, the Head of Cal/OSHA, Division Chief Doug Parker, provided feedback about Cal/OSHA’s COVID-19 Recordkeeping and Reporting expectations.  The signal to employers back then was that Cal/OSHA would be following Federal OSHA’s guidance on when employers must record COVID-19 cases on their 300 Logs, and that is not very often.

Just last week, however, Cal/OSHA issued a new set of COVID-19 Recordkeeping and Reporting FAQs, indicating that it has changed course from Division Chief Parker’s April letter.  This move comes only a few days after Fed OSHA reversed course with respect to its own COVID-19 Recordkeeping and Reporting guidance.Cal-OSHA RK FAQS

To be clear, while Fed OSHA’s latest COVID-19 Recordkeeping guidance does retreat from some of the early relief OSHA had offered employers, in substance, it merely changes the landscape around the edges — requiring more employers to analyze work-relatedness for COVID-19 cases.  Still fed OSHA only requires recording or reporting COVID-19 cases where it is “more likely than not” that a COVID-19 case resulted from workplace exposure, based on reasonably available evidence, and the absence of any alternative (non-work) explanation for the employee’s illness.

Among other stark differences, Cal/OSHA’s new guidance flips the burden of establishing work-relatedness on its head.  Now, according to Cal/OSHA, a COVID-19 case in California will be presumed to be work-related if any workplace exposure is identified, even if the cause of the illness is more likely attributable to a non-workplace exposure.

Confirmed Case

Unlike Fed OSHA’s previous and current recordkeeping guidance, Cal/OSHA’s FAQs now make clear that Cal/OSHA does NOT require a positive test for COVID-19 to be necessary to trigger recording requirements.  Cal/OSHA states: Continue reading

Wildfire Smoke Rule Coalition Comments on Cal/OSHA’s Proposed Permanent Wildfire Smoke Standard

By Andrew J. Sommer and Eric J. Conn

On behalf of a diverse coalition of employers, Conn Maciel Carey submitted written comments and presented key comments at the Cal/OSH Standards Board’s May 21, 2020 meeting concerning the proposed permanent rule on protection from wildfire smoke.  The coalition raised a host of concerns about the rule, from the potentially broad application of the rule to the inflexible respiratory protection and hierarchy of controls requirements.

As background,  the Cal/OSH Standards Board adopted an emergency regulation regarding hazards associated with wildfire smoke last summer at the urging of various interest groups.  The regulation took effect on a temporary emergency basis on July 29, 2019.

Recently, the Board published a request for written comments and notice of a public hearing on its proposal to revise the emergency standard and make it permanent.  The Board explained:

Current regulations are not sufficiently specific as to what employers are required to do during wildfire events. This results in confusion on behalf of both employers and employees, leaving many employees unprotected….  As wildfire seasons worsen, the proposed regulation will avoid a potential increase in debilitating and sometimes life-threatening illnesses faced by workers exposed to wildfire smoke.

The Emergency Standard

The emergency standard (which is still in effect) requires California employers to take steps to protect employees who may be exposed to wildfire smoke.  Importantly, the regulation covers “workplaces” rather than employers of a particular size or scope of service. It applies in workplaces where:

  • The current Air Quality Index (AQI) for PM2.5 is 151 or greater, regardless of the AQI for other pollutants, and
  • The employer should reasonably anticipate that employees may be exposed to wildfire smoke.

The regulation specifically exempts Continue reading

Cal/OSHA Guidance Regarding COVID-19 in the Workplace

By Andrew Sommer, Megan Shaked, and Beeta Lashkari

Last week, Cal/OSHA updated its website, providing additional guidance on how to protect Californian employee from spread of COVID-19 in the workplace.  Additionally, earlier this week, Division Chief Doug Parker sent an unpublished letter, clarifying Cal/OSHA’s recording/reporting requirements for coronavirus-related illnesses.  Below is a summary of both pieces of guidance from Cal/OSHA:

Additional Cal/OSHA Guidance on COVID-19 in the Workplace

Starting with the new guidance on its website, Cal/OSHA provided additional information on how to protect workers from COVID-19.  While Cal/OSHA previously issued guidance on requirements under its Aerosol Transmissible Diseases (“ATD”) standard specific to COVID-19, as well as general guidelines, it has now released industry-specific guidance and ATD model plans.  The industry-specific guidance includes:

The ATD model plans are fillable pages provided in Word format and include an exposure control plan, laboratory biosafety plan, and “referring employer” model written program.

Picture1As general guidance, Cal/OSHA’s website also includes interim guidelines for general industry on COVID-19.  These interim guidelines make clear that, for employers covered by the ATD standard, employers must protect employees from airborne infectious diseases such as COVID-19 and pathogens transmitted by aerosols.  The ATD standard applies to:

  1. hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, clinics, medical offices, outpatient medical facilities, home health care, long-term health care facilities, hospices, medical outreach services, medical transport and emergency medical services;
  2. certain laboratories, public health services and police services that are reasonably anticipated to expose employees to an aerosol transmissible disease;
  3. correctional facilities, homeless shelters, and drug treatment programs; and
  4. any other locations when Cal/OSHA informs employers in writing that they must comply with the ATD standard.

Additionally, for employers NOT covered by the ATD standard, Cal/OSHA advises employers to Continue reading

COVID-19 Pandemic FAQs – What Do Stay-At-Home / Shelter-In-Place Orders Mean For Employers?

By Conn Maciel Carey’s COVID-19 Task Force

Governors across the nation have signed various “stay-at-home” or “shelter-in-place” orders in an increased effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.  Many cities and counties have also signed such orders as well, including in states with no statewide order in place. COVID These orders vary in their scope in the restricted activities and affected industries but they typically address: (1) the continued operations of critical businesses; (2) restrictions on non-essential businesses; (3) the activities individuals may continue to perform; and (4) other limitations on gatherings.

Spotlight: California

On March 19, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed an emergency order requiring all individuals living in California “stay home or at their places of residence except as needed to maintain continuity of operations of the federal critical infrastructure sectors.”  Californians may continue working for such critical infrastructure sectors and any other industries the governor designates as critical.  The emergency order cites to federal guidance on the federal critical infrastructure sectors, which identifies the 16 critical infrastructure sectors including critical manufacturing, food and agriculture, transportation, energy, healthcare and emergency services.

The emergency order references a March 19, 2020 Memorandum on Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers During COVID-19 Response issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which includes more detailed descriptions of categories of workers falling under each of the identified critical infrastructure sectors.  Some of the other state orders also rely on this federal guidance on “essential critical infrastructure workers” in defining the critical business that may continue to operate under the orders.

Californians may Continue reading

Key Cal/OSHA Issues California Employers Must Track [Webinar Recording]

On May 28, 2019, Andrew J. SommerEric J. Conn and Megan S. Shaked  of Conn Maciel Carey LLP‘s national OSHA Practice presented a webinar regarding: “Key Cal/OSHA Issues California Employers Must Track.”

The state of California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, 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.

Of particular significance in the coming year, California employers should be on the lookout for a new permanent E-Recordkeeping injury data submission rule, a new focus on finding Repeat violations, and the roll-out of several new California-unique rules.

Participants in this webinar learned about:​

Continue reading

Tug-of-War Between Fed OSHA and the State OSH Plans over the E-Recordkeeping Rule

By Eric J. Conn, Dan Deacon, and Beeta Lashkari

A fascinating jurisdictional tug-of-war has broken out between federal OSHA and a few fed OSHA approved State OSH Programs, in relation to OSHA’s Final Rule to “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses” (aka the E-Recordkeeping Rule).  The E-Recordkeeping Rule requires large employers and smaller employees that operate in certain “high hazard industries” to proactively submit their electronic injury and illness data to OSHA through a special web portal – the Injury Tracking Application (“ITA”).

State Plan Adoption of OSHA’s E-Recordkeeping Rule

When fed OSHA promulgated the Rule in 2016, it built into the Rule a mandate that all State Plans adopt substantially identical requirements to the final E-Recordkeeping Rule within six months after its publication.  However, because the State Plan states all have their own legislative or rulemaking processes, they cannot simply snap their fingers and instantly adopt a new fed OSHA rule.

Most of the 20+ State Plans acted promptly to promulgate their own version of the E-Recordkeeping rule, ahead of the deadline to submit data the first year of the Rule, but as of the end of 2017, when employers’ 2016 300A data was due to be submitted, eight State Plans had not yet adopted (and some, like California, had not even started the process to adopt) an E-Recordkeeping Rule.  Those states included:

  • 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).

The delay by these States has primarily been a result of fed OSHA’s numerous announcements that it will soon issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to amend (or rescind) the federal E-Recordkeeping Rule.  The State Plans have been reluctant to invest the time and resources to implement their own versions of the rule, only to watch fed OSHA change it, causing the states to have to change their own rules again very soon.

Of those eight states, only Vermont has since finalized its E-Recordkeeping Rule this year, and the other seven remain delinquent in their obligation to adopt the Rule.

Last year, fed OSHA and those eight state plans apparently recognized that only employers in fed OSHA states or State Plan states that had already adopted the E-Recordkeeping rule were required to submit their 300A data to OSHA.  This year, however, fed OSHA spoke up about the delinquent states. Continue reading

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

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