Many workers in California are at least partially aware of their right to a safe and healthy workplace. One of the most important–and often overlooked–aspects of this safety requirement is the temperature you and your coworkers must perform in. California is known worldwide for its beautiful weather, but for those that have to work outdoors, it can sometimes be strenuous, especially in the hot summer months. Likewise, specific industries that have to deal with extreme temperatures indoors also may find that the workplace isn’t conducive to the overall health and safety of the workers.
In order to deal with this issue, California law has established regulations regarding workplace temperature that employers must follow.
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At Maison Law, we understand how important it is to have a safe and healthy work environment. Whether it be harassment or things as simple as the temperature, our team of experienced California employment lawyers can work to make sure you get the fair treatment you deserve. Navigating the legal process when your workplace rights have been violated is can be intimidating, but our team will be there with you every step of the way. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation to let us help you.
Workplace Temperature Violation Laws in California
In California, workplace temperatures are regulated by the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA). As part of this effort, Cal/OSHA has established regulations to protect employees from the potential hazards of extreme heat or cold in the workplace.
- Indoor workplaces – In California’s indoor workplaces, employers are required to maintain a temperature between:
- 68 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the type of work being performed.
This temperature range is considered safe and comfortable for most workers. Regulations also require effective ventilation when necessary to maintain a safe and comfortable working environment.
- Outdoor workplaces – For outdoor workplaces, employers are required to provide adequate shade and cool drinking water to workers when the temperature exceeds:
- 80 degrees Fahrenheit
- When the temperature exceeds 95 degrees Fahrenheit, employers have to implement “high heat procedures”, which include providing additional shade, rest periods, and training for employees and supervisors
These procedures are designed to help prevent heat exhaustion and other heat-related illnesses.
- Acclimatization – The law also requires employers to provide a period of acclimatization for workers who are new to outdoor work or who have not worked outdoors for a significant period of time. During the acclimatization period, employers must gradually increase the amount of time workers spend working outdoors and provide additional rest periods and shade. This is to ensure that workers are able to work safely in hot conditions.
- Medical conditions – Employers must provide reasonable accommodations to employees with medical conditions that may be exacerbated by extreme temperatures. For example, an employer may need to provide additional breaks or allow an employee to work in a cooler part of the workplace.
With these regulations in place, it helps ensure a safe and healthy working environment for all workers in California. Still, just because these regulations are in place doesn’t mean employers always follow them. No matter what their reasoning is, employers put workers at risk when they violate these temperature regulations.
California Workers and Temperature Violations
California has a diverse economy with numerous occupations that work in both indoor and outdoor spaces. While temperature violations can occur anywhere, this diversity frequently leads to certain occupations in California being more prone to temperature violations than others.
Generally speaking, outdoor occupations are more susceptible to temperature violations due to the nature of the work. This commonly occurs in the following industries:
These jobs require workers to perform physical labor outdoors, often in direct sunlight, which can expose them to extreme heat and increase the risk of heat-related illnesses.
In addition, indoor occupations that involve working in hot or cold environments are also prone to temperature violations. This is especially true for workers in:
Frequently, these occupations can be exposed to extreme temperatures due to the nature of their work or inadequate heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems.
Lastly, workers in low-wage and temporary employment arrangements may also be at a higher risk of temperature violations. These workers are usually less likely to speak up about unsafe working conditions, which can make them more vulnerable to temperature-related illnesses.
How Do Employers Violate Temperature Regulations in California?
There is no excuse for employers violating any workplace regulation in California, but especially those that can harm the health and safety of workers. Unfortunately, some employers don’t take their responsibility to their workers seriously and violate temperature regulations. Usually, this happens when the employer fails to:
- Maintain a safe and comfortable temperature in indoor workspaces
- Provide adequate shade and cool drinking water in outdoor workspaces
- Implement high-heat procedures in outdoor workspaces
- Provide a period of acclimatization
- Provide reasonable accommodations
Like any violation of regulations in California, employers can face penalties and fines when they violate temperature regulations. This, unfortunately, isn’t always a deterrent. Instead, one of the better ways to hold your employer accountable is to file a claim for damages.
Filing a Claim For Workplace Temperature Violations in California
When you believe your employer has violated your right to a safe workplace by forcing you to work in extreme temperatures, you have several options for holding them accountable. Importantly, the basis for any claim is going to require the gathering of evidence to prove this. Thus, it’s important that you take the following steps initially:
- Document the violation – Keep a record of any instances where you believe your employer has violated temperature regulations. This could include the date and time of the violation, the temperature at the time, and any symptoms you experienced as a result.
- Notify your employer – Notify your employer in writing of the temperature violation and request that they take corrective action to address the issue. This not only puts them on notice, but it can also lead to a quick resolution without the need to involve investigators.
From there, if your employer refuses to take corrective action and keeps forcing you to work in unsafe conditions, your next course of action will usually involve:
- Filing a complaint with Cal/OSHA – If your employer does not take action to address the violation, you can file a complaint with Cal/OSHA. You can file a complaint online, by mail, or by phone. Be sure to include as much detail as possible about the violation, including the date, time, and location of the violation, and any symptoms you experienced.Cal/OSHA will then investigate your claim, which usually includes them performing a workplace inspection and gathering their own evidence through interviews, and requesting documentation. Once this has concluded, they’ll make a ruling that may require your employer to pay fines.
- Filing a lawsuit – For your damages, especially if you’ve suffered health ramifications or lost wages, you can then file a lawsuit in civil court against your employer. This process should only be undertaken after consulting with our team of experienced California employment lawyers, but we can help you navigate the litigation process to achieve a result that gets you the benefits and support you’re owed under the law.
Maison Law Stands Up For Worker’s Rights in Calfornia
As a worker in California, you have several rights in the workplace. None are more important than your right to a safe and healthy work environment. When your employer violates your rights by forcing you to work in extremely hot or cold temperatures, Maison Law will be there to stand up for your rights.
Our team of experienced and dedicated California employment lawyers can help you navigate the claims process and provide you with legal guidance if you have any questions or concerns. To get a better idea of your rights and options, contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation.