High heat temperatures are continuing throughout California. Please read our previous eBlast discussing California’s high heat illness prevention standard and steps that employers must take to protect outdoor workers from potential heat illness here. Many areas throughout California have already reached or exceeded 80 degrees, which trigger an employer’s obligation to comply with California Heat Illness Prevention guidelines.
Pursuant to California’s Heat Illness Prevention guidelines, agricultural employers are also expected to provide mandatory preventative cool-down rest periods for high-heat conditions where temperatures reach 95 degrees or above. A minimum 10 minute net preventative cool-down rest period must be provided every two hours for employees during high-heat days.
This cool-down period can be taken concurrently with any legally required rest or meal period. Please note, the preventative cool-down rest period must be taken every two hours. Consequently, the employer must be diligent about scheduling the rest and meal periods at each two-hour interval during the work day. Failure to schedule cool down periods every two hours as required may result in one hour of penalty pay to affected employees for each high-heat day the employer was in violation.
The California’s Heat Illness Prevention guidelines states the preventive “cool down” period is given the same meaning as a “recovery” period under Labor Code 226.7. Therefore, the conservative response from a pay and recording standpoint, is to treat these preventative cool-down rest period as you treat other rest and recovery periods. For those employers that pay piece-rate to workers, this means following the AHR requirement for rest and recovery periods. If you choose to provide the preventative cool-down period during an employee’s meal period, this time still must be paid as required under Labor Code 226.7. Make sure the timecard reflects the preventive cool-down period accurately to avoid concerns that an employee received a shortened lunch period.
Please be aware, an employee will earn a third preventative cool-down rest period at the 8-hour mark if the workday will continue beyond 8 hours. On days where the temperature is below 95 degrees, the employer is not required to provide another rest period unless the employee exceeds 10 hours of work, but this is not true of high heat days. This means an extra preventative cool-down rest period is provided on shifts in excess of 8 hours but less than 10 only on days that exceed 95 degrees.
COUNSEL TO MANAGEMENT:
For all agricultural employers operating in high-heat areas pay close attention to the outlined rules in this article. In addition, Cal/OSHA also provides further online information on heat illness prevention requirements and training materials, available here. The wage and hour component of this situation is quite complex and unsettled. If you have questions or concerns about how to pay employees for the required cool-down rest period, contact the experts at The Saqui Law Group, a division of Dowling Aaron Incorporated.