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California Court Opens Door for More Employee Lawsuits

Posted by: on April 17, 2018 in employee relations Health & Safety


Cal/OSHA lawsuits for employers
Every employer in the state of California, regardless of industry, is subject to the regulations set forth by the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH), commonly referred to as Cal/OSHA. These regulations help ensure safe and healthy working conditions for employees by enforcing workplace safety standards and safety training in the workplace. Employers who fail to comply with said regulations are subject to fines of up to $126,000 per violation, depending on the circumstances.

On top of the administrative citations that are assessed by Cal/OSHA, the California Supreme Court recently ruled that California employers can also be sued under the state's unfair business practices laws when employees are injured as a result of workplace safety violations. The unanimous ruling means that employers who violate Cal/OSHA regulations can potentially be subject to multiple consequences stemming from one violation.

The ruling in this case, Solus Industrial Innovations, Inc. v. Superior Court, was regarding an incident in which a water heater explosion killed two workers. Cal/OSHA cited the employer for willful violation. The Orange County district attorney subsequently filed criminal charges against the company, alleging that it engaged in fraudulent business practices by failing to comply with workplace safety standards and made false and misleading statements about its commitment to such standards - which falls under the state's unfair competition law (UCL) and fair advertising law (FAL).

The court agreed with the DA’s use of UCL and FAL as causes of action, thus giving the state another tool for enforcement regarding workplace violations and accidents. Not only does this decision give the state a longer period of time to pursue claims against employers for violations of workplace safety standards - the statute of limitations for UCL claims is four years and FAL is three years - this may also open the door for more individual suits as well.

For employers, having a written safety program is not enough to keep them in compliance with federal and Cal/OSHA regulations and requirements. California employers need to have a thorough understanding of the state’s specific standards and make compliance a top priority. Employers in any industry may find it beneficial to consult with a professional for all worksite regulations. Even in an office or retail location, Cal/OSHA violations and lawsuits can and do occur. To stay on top of compliance, employers should partner with someone who is an expert in labor law and compliance, like the dedicated HR Professionals at Emplicity.

Emplicity understands that HR Outsourcing should be simple and meaningful. As a Professional Employer Organization (PEO), we strive to be a great partner in supporting your business. If you would like to request more information on how we can assist your needs, please reach out to us at 877-476-2339. We are located in California – Orange County, Los Angeles, and the greater Sacramento and San Francisco area.

NOTICE: Emplicity provides HR advice and recommendations. Information provided by Emplicity is not intended as a substitute for employment law counsel. At no time will Emplicity have the authority or right to make decisions on behalf of their clients.