Changes to California’s Heat Illness Standard
The California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board has issued an amendment to its Heat Illness Standard, which applies to all outdoor places of employment. If you have employees who work outdoors, or in an indoor environment that lacks air conditioning, it will be important to understand these changes, which became effective May 1, 2015.
One change is that the temperature threshold at which employers must provide shade and allow employees to take a cool-down recovery period has been reduced from 85 to 80 degrees.
The amount of shade provided must be enough to accommodate the total number of employees taking a recovery or rest period. The Standard previously stated shade must accommodate 25% of employees on the shift, and the new requirement may increase the amount of shade you must make available.
Also, employers now have greater responsibilities when an employee takes a cool-down recovery period to avoid heat illness. The amended Standard states that the individual should be monitored for symptoms of heat illness, be encouraged to remain in the shade for no less than 5 minutes, and shall not be ordered back to work until any signs or symptoms of heat illness have abated. If the employee exhibits symptoms of heat illness during the cool-down rest, the employer must provide appropriate first aid or emergency response.
High heat procedures must be taken when outdoor temperatures reach 95 degrees, and the amended Standard provides greater details regarding employers’ responsibilities to ensure effective communication, monitor employees, encourage recovery periods and hydration, and contact emergency medical services when necessary.
Finally, a Heat Illness Prevention Plan must be provided in writing in both English and the language understood by the majority of the employees.
Before Terminating that Employee
Letting an employee go can be one of the most difficult aspects of human resources management. This task is particularly stressful when the termination is due to insubordination, breaking the law or an egregious act such as drug use, violence or theft. Sierra HR Partners is available to provide guidance during this process.
As a best practice, before planning the termination meeting, be sure to consider whether the employee has recently exercised his or her rights to:
- File a workplace injury or illness claim.
- Question missed meal periods/breaks or correct pay for all hours worked, including overtime.
- Reasonable accommodation under state or federal disability discrimination laws.
- File a complaint of discrimination or harassment based on a protected class (currently 15 categories of protected classes under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act).
- Address a policy or practice believed to violate the law (whistleblowing).
- Discuss the terms and conditions of employment (pay, benefits and supervision) with other coworkers.
- Accrued/used the new state mandated sick leave (effective 7/1).
The above sample checklist, although not exhaustive, creates awareness for you as an employer on how much legal risk may be associated with an involuntary termination. By risk, we mean the likelihood that the terminated employee may bring a successful claim or lawsuit against you for wrongful termination. Other considerations include how long the employee has been employed with your company, performance history, documentation, and written or implied employment contracts. When in doubt, contact your employment attorney prior to terminating.
Mid-Year Employment Update
The following is a brief summary of a few significant developments. Sierra HR Partners is available to explain these employment updates in further detail and assist in implementing any needed changes.
||Few Key Points
|Healthy Workplace Healthy Family Act of 2014 (AB 1522) also referred to as “State Paid Sick Leave (PSL)”
|1/1/2015 notice requirement
7/1/2015 accrual and usage begins
|• Review sick, PTO and attendance policies for compliance
• Ensure wage statements include at a minimum PSL hours available
• Communicate your compliance (and policy changes) to employees timely and via various methods
|Heat Illness Prevention
|• Access to shade for all affected workers when it reaches 80 degrees (down from 85)
• Potable water defined as fresh, pure, suitably cool, and provided to employees free of charge
• Applies to indoor structures where there is limited air circulation or lack of insulation
|California Family Rights Act (CFRA)
|• Employers have five business days to respond to CFRA leave requests (now aligns with FMLA)
• Updated medical certification form. Recertification permitted only when initial cert expires
• If employee receives SDI or PFL wage replacement benefits during CFRA leave, employer cannot require use of accrued paid time- off benefits
Updated CFRA Regulations
Significant changes recently took place to the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), for employers with 50 or more employees, which may impact your policies and practices, including but not limited to:
- Updated guidelines on what can be included on a medical certification form. For leaves running concurrently with FMLA, be sure to use a medical certification form that is compliant with California’s FEHA guidelines, which prohibits asking for a medical diagnosis.
- In-patient care is defined as having been admitted with the ‘expectation of remaining overnight’ versus FMLA language that more clearly requires an actual overnight stay.
- Spouse definition now includes married same-sex partners and registered domestic partners.
- Employers cannot require the use of paid time-off if an employee is receiving disability or paid family leave benefits during CFRA leave.
- Requiring a second opinion is only permitted for an employee’s own serious health condition and only if you have a “good faith, objective reason to doubt” the validity of a medical certification.
- Unlike FMLA, under CFRA you may only require recertification after the initial certification has expired.
- Calculating leave entitlement for an employee with an irregular work schedule requires a 12-month look-back to determine average weekly hours worked.
- Interference with CFRA leave rights includes refusing to authorize and/or discouraging an employee from using such leave.
- Expanded definition of employee worksite, including those that work remotely.
Sierra HR Partners is available to help determine if you are a CFRA covered employer and to ensure your policies, practices, notices and forms are compliant and adhere to best practices.
Form I-9 Compliance and Best Practices
All employers are responsible for completing an I-9 form for new and rehired employees hired after November 6, 1986. This form, required by the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services division, verifies individual identity and employment authorization.
The following are the most common issues we see when auditing these forms:
- An old I-9 form being used. This form was last updated on 3/08/2013 (valid through 3/31/16). Be sure to use the most current version.
- Employee Section 1 not completed correctly. Note that employers cannot fill in the employee section. If you need to make changes; ask the employee to correct, initial and date.
- Identity and employment authorization documents listed in the wrong columns in Employer Section 2.
- Keeping copies of acceptable documents for some, but not all employees. Although not a requirement to keep copies of documents, there are benefits to both practices and you need to be consistent.
- Missing information in Employer Section 2 and certification statement such as employee’s name from Section 1, employee’s first date of employment and employer address.
- Accepting social security cards that have not been signed.
- Employee completing Section 1 or providing acceptable documents
later than first day of work.
- Employer completing Section 2 and Certification statement later than three business days from employee’s first day of work. Best practice is to complete all information on day one.
- Allowing untrained staff to complete and maintain form I-9s.
- Missing form I-9s for some employees, often those hired a long time ago or senior-level managers. Note I-9 form is required for all employees hired after 11/06/1986.
- Filing form I-9 with other personnel documents. Keep in mind that if subject to an audit, you will need to quickly turn over all form I-9s and you probably don’t want to hand over all personnel files, which could trigger other issues.
Sierra HR Partners is available to audit your form I-9 documents and practices, and to train your staff responsible for completing I-9s, which can reduce or limit your exposure to significant penalties. Additional employer resources may be found by visiting “I-9 Central” on the Department of Homeland Security’s website.