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New Bill Beefs Up OSHA Penalties Against Employers for Workplace Safety Violations

Legislation also penalizes an employer for taking adverse action against an employee within 90 days

By Chris Micheli, February 20, 2021 10:21 am

February 18, State Senator Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach) introduced Senate Bill 606 related to workplace safety. The bill would add Sections 6317.8, 6317.10, and 6409.7 to the Labor Code. Section One of the bill would add Labor Code Section 6317.8 to provide that the Division of Division of Occupational Safety and Health, which is housed within the Department of Industrial Relations, may issue citations to “egregious employers” for willful violations of the law.

The grant of authority to the Division occurs if, upon inspection or investigation, the Division believes that an egregious employer has willfully violated an occupational safety or health standard, order, special order, or regulation. In such a case, the Division must promptly issue a citation for each violation and each employee exposed to that violation it to be considered a separate violation for purposes of the issuance of fines and penalties.

SB 606 would define an “egregious employer” as an employer that has demonstrated one or more of the following characteristics:

  • The employer, intentionally, through conscious, voluntary action or inaction, made no reasonable effort to eliminate the known violation.
  • The violations resulted in worker fatalities, a worksite catastrophe, or a large number of injuries or illnesses.
  • The violations resulted in persistently high rates of worker injuries or illnesses.
  • The employer has an extensive history of prior violations of this part.
  • The employer has intentionally disregarded their health and safety responsibilities.
  • The employer’s conduct, taken as a whole, amounts to clear bad faith in the performance of their duties under this part.
  • The employer has committed a large number of violations so as to undermine significantly the effectiveness of any safety and health program that may be in place.

Section Two of the bill would add Labor Code Section 6317.10 to provide that the

Division may issue to an employer with separate places of employment a citation, or seek a temporary restraining order against such an employer, or both issue a citation and seek an order, with regard to an employer-wide written policy or practice that violates the Health and Safety Code or the Labor Code.

Section Three of the bill would add Labor Code Section 6409.7 to provide a rebuttable presumption that an employer’s action was retaliatory if an employer takes any adverse action against an employee within 90 days of an employee doing any of the following:

  • Disclosing a positive test or diagnosis resulting from an exposure at the place of employment or worksite or of a communicable disease.
  • Requesting testing as a result of an exposure at the place of employment or worksite.
  • Requesting personal protective equipment that is reasonable under the circumstances.
  • Reporting a possible violation of an occupational safety or health standard, order, special order, or regulation.

The bill is expected to be heard in its first policy committee in March.

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3 thoughts on “New Bill Beefs Up OSHA Penalties Against Employers for Workplace Safety Violations

  1. Want’s the point of having a business in CA – the politicians are willfully pushing them out. Good grief!

  2. Some history here: California created its own OSHA under Reagan called CalOSHA, and then when Reagan as President created the Federal OSHA in 1986 or so, Governor Deukmeijan said, “well, why do we need to have two OSHAs?” He then had a heads-off with Willie Brown trying to get rid of CalOSHA because it was redundant with the Federal regulators, and this lead to a really complex court decision that created the phenomenon of the “trailer bill.”

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