California is cracking down on workplace safety and health violations with two brand new violation categories that bring it in line more with federal standards and expand upon them.
Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 606 into law Sept. 28, creating two new categories of Cal/OSHA violation: “egregious” and “enterprise-wide.”
Both categories carry big fines for employers. How big? Up to $134,334 per egregious or enterprise-wide violation.
However, egregious violations can lead to even bigger fines “because each exposed employee will be considered a separate violation, i.e., $134,334 multiplied by the number of impacted employees,” according to law firm Greenberg Traurig.
The law and its new violation categories take effect Jan. 1, 2022.
California’s egregious violations are similar to federal OSHA’s version in that citations stemming from such a violation are typically reserved for employers who consciously do nothing to eliminate known violations or if the violation leads to fatalities, a large number of injuries or a worksite catastrophe.
Egregious violations are also those that:
- resulted in persistently high rates of worker injuries or illnesses
- involve an employer with an extensive history of prior violations
- involve an employer who has intentionally disregarded their health and safety responsibilities
- stem from an employer whose conduct, taken as a whole, amounts to clear bad faith, and
- involve an employer who has committed such a large number of violations that they’ve significantly undermined the effectiveness of their own safety and health programs.
The other new violation category, enterprise-wide violations, does not have a federal OSHA counterpart. Federal OSHA can only get corporate-wide abatement through negotiated settlements.
California’s new law creates a rebuttable presumption that an employer with multiple worksites has committed an enterprise-wide violation if:
- the employer’s written procedures on certain topics or issues aren’t in compliance, or
- there’s evidence of a pattern or practice of the same violation committed by the employer at more than one of its worksites.