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California Amends Laws To Protect Workers In The Heat

As it cools down outside, you may be reminiscing about the hot summer. Do you remember how hot the burning sun was? Do you recall working under beating rays? While California workers take rest in winter’s shade, legislators have created legal safeguards within the labor system for some employees before the hot months ahead.

The California Legislature specifically amended the California Labor Code to incorporate sanctions for employers who fail to provide adequate “Cool Down Recovery Periods” (CDRPs) to workers in an effort to prevent exhaustion, heat stroke or other injuries among workers. The requirements will begin in the New Year.

If employers do not provide CDRP programs to workers (specifically, those working in hot conditions), they must pay a premium. This premium is akin to the penalties assessed for violations of the state’s meal and rest laws.

Under the new CDRP revision, employers who do not create cool down recovery periods will have to pay the employee for one additional hour of pay. This will be assessed for each day of work that a recovery period is not provided. With this change, employers now face more than just citations under the revised law. Employers could also be sued by employees for not providing adequate CDRPs.

It is important to recognize that the CDRP legislation does not recognize what conditions in the workplace specifically trigger the requirement. As a result, those working in air-conditioned offices could potentially be entitled to CDRPs, too, if the environment places employees at risk for heat-related illnesses.

Moving forward, employers should also ensure that workers are aware of the company’s policy, which must require work-free recovery periods. Most importantly, employers will need to create CDRP plans and make certain that employees take the breaks, as necessary. Comprehensive and diligent training will help ensure that workers understand the law. Furthermore, it will benefit employers if they develop specific procedures for documentation of CDRPs.

The summer is a while away, but it is comforting knowing that employers are addressing the dangers of work safety that commonly arise in that season. Heat can cause serious ailments to hardworking employees. Once employees get out of the shade, they will now have greater legal protections. This will prevent work injuries.

If you have been injured in a work accident, you may need assistance understanding relevant and applicable laws. If you want to learn more about your rights, contact an experienced workers’ compensation law attorney.