June 17, 2015

Cal-OSHA Settles UFW Heat Illness Enforcement Lawsuit

Cal/OSHA and the United Farm Workers union have reached a settlement in the long-running lawsuit over heat illness enforcement.  Under the terms of the agreement, Cal/OSHA has agreed to step up inspections during the heat season and target repeat offenders.

The agreement also expands the UFW’s role in reporting employers it suspects of violating existing rules, calls on the union to persuade workers to cooperate with inspectors, and gives UFW unprecedented access to confidential audits of Cal/OSHA’s performance.

In addition, the settlement creates a controversial pilot program that will allow farm workers to give sworn statements in the field to inspectors about heat illness conditions. However the admissibility of such declarations into evidence is questionable since employers have the right to cross-examine witnesses.

The settlement puts an end to two lawsuits filed by the UFW in 2009 and 2012, in which the union accused Cal/OSHA of failing to fully enforce California’s heat illness prevention standard.

The settlement was completed just days before revisions to the heat illness regulations became effective on May 1. The regulated community has long speculated that the new revisions were being promulgated as part of a quid-pro-quo to achieve a settlement with the UFW.