California Labor Law Turns Up the Heat on California Farm Labor Contractors
As reported July 3rd 2009 in US State News, the labor commissioner for the State of California initiated proceedings to revoke the farm labor contractor licenses for Joel Salazar Farm Labor and Valley Pride Inc. after state inspectors witnessed conditions considered dangerous to workers and in violation of state labor statutes.
According to a communiqué issued June 30th by the California Department of Industrial Relations, state inspectors attended a site May 20th of this year and encountered a crew of 15 workers planting date palm trees in 116-degree heat. The workers had less than a single gallon of water for the entire crew.
Regulations require sufficient quantities of fresh drinking water to allow each worker four, 8-ounce glasses per hour??"equivalent to a gallon of water per worker in an 8-hour shift.
Salazar Farm Labor was also cited for failing to provide adequate training to their employees in heat illness prevention.
Valley Pride Inc. was issued an Order Prohibiting Use (OPU) on May 19th when inspectors found two employees toiling in 108-degree weather, without shade. Various other citations were issued for violations ranging from the lack of an injury illness prevention program, to failure to comply with field sanitation requirements.
"This sends yet another strong message to all farm labor contractors statewide," said Commissioner Angela Bradstreet. "If you fail to provide the required level of protection for employees or falsify information on your application you can lose your license."
California became, in 2005 the first state to develop a safety and health regulation addressing heat illness.
That regulation was tested three years later after a 17-year-old farm worker succumbed to heat and died while toiling for Merced Farm Labor. The labor contractor was fined in 2008 for work safety violations and surrendered its license to operate for 3 years, prior to a license revocation hearing.
Three years is the maximum revocation period that can be sought by state regulators under California labor law. California labor employment law represents an important protection for workers in all sectors, ensuring that under California state labor law workers are free from exploitation and risks to their health and wellbeing.