Farmworker Housing Bill Introduced in California Senate

By: Rebecca Hause-Schultz

There is no doubt that California is one of the most expensive states in the nation to live in. As Californians know, there has been a persistent housing crisis across much of the state, driven in large part by an increasingly expensive rental market and declining numbers of available low-income housing.   Farmworkers have been especially hard-hit by the housing crisis, and struggle to find affordable housing near worksites.

In accordance with Cal/OSHA general safety orders, employers are required to maintain first-aid materials readily available for employees on every job. This is not a particularly onerous requirement given the prevalence of comprehensive commercial first aid kids.  However, what many employers may not know is that the first-aid materials must be approved by a consulting physician.  See California Code of Regulations, Title 8, Section 3400.  Buying a standard, commercially available and comprehensive first aid kit is not sufficient to satisfy a company’s legal obligations.  And although in the past this may not have been a requirement that was strictly enforced, according to the Ventura County Agricultural Association, there have been reports of increased Cal/OSHA citations issued for failure to provide Cal/OSHA with proof of a physician’s review and approval of the first-aid kit. While there have been efforts to re-write this general safety order to not require physician approval of the first-aid kit, the current law still requires it, and apparently OSHA is still enforcing it.

In November of 2017, a group of 700,000 female farmworkers sent an open letter to Hollywood actors following the Weinstein scandal. In that letter, the farmworkers explain that farmworker women across the country suffer in silence because of widespread sexual harassment and assault they face at work. You can read the letter here. In response, over 300 women who work in film, television, and theatre have written a letter, published on January 1, 2018, expressing their solidarity with and support of farmworker women and those in other industries who have been victims of sexual harassment and assault. 

Please note: The following does not apply to California employers covered by Cal/OSHA at this time. Employers with operations in other states need to be aware of the new OSHA mandated electronic reporting rule.

In 2016, the federal division of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) issued a final rule relating to the tracking and reporting of workplace injuries. Effective January 1, 2017, employers must now electronically submit certain injury and illness records to OSHA.

Employers with 250 or more employees that are currently required to keep OSHA injury and illness records must electronically submit: 1) log of work-related injuries and illnesses (“Form 300”); 2) summary of work-related injuries and illnesses (“Form 300A”); and 3) an injury and illness report (“Form 301”). Employers with 20-249 employees that are classified in certain industries, including agriculture and freight trucking, with historically high rates of occupational injury and/or illness in the workplace must electronically submit only Form 300A. All three forms and the instructions to complete the forms can be found here.                                

On December 6, 2017, Cal/OSHA issued an advisory and posted materials that provide guidance for employers and workers who are working in the wildfire regions, available here. Employers are instructed to take special precautions to protect workers from hazards from the heavy wildfire smoke.  Employers are also instructed to take appropriate measures under their Injury and Illness Prevention Program (“IIPP”) including:

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