A group of industry organizations is pushing back against the emergency safety standards that have been put in place in response to COVID-19. The coalition of agricultural and business groups filed a lawsuit challenging the emergency temporary standards (ETS) issued by the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (Board). Among the many issues highlighted in the complaint, the coalition questions the statutory authority of the Board to impose such standards.
The lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court claims that the emergency safety standards are infeasible and impractical. In a fact sheet, the plaintiffs suggest the Board has no authority to implement such sweeping standards as there is no necessity for them. The coalition highlights the fact that the ETS was adopted with very little notice and without adequate input from the public. While the Board has claimed the actions were necessary due to a “finding of emergency,” it took nine months to act.
“While these measures helped reduce transmission in workplaces, this virus has swept through communities large and small in spite of lockdown orders and mask mandates, and through every sector of the economy as well despite extraordinary efforts by employers and employees alike,” President & CEO of Western Growers, Dave Puglia said in a press release. “The Board imposed unrealistic, unfounded and economically harmful standards in total disregard of these realities. We have no choice but to seek judicial relief.”
A total of six organizations are participating in the lawsuit, including the California Association of Winegrape Growers, Western Growers, California Business Roundtable, Ventura County Agricultural Association, California Farm Bureau Federation (CFBF), and the Grower-Shipper Association of Central California. The groups note that the health and safety of employees are paramount, however, the Board’s approach is creating more harm than good.
“These regulations will disrupt food supply operations all along the line, but it will be especially hard on our 20,000 small family farming members,” said CFBF President Jamie Johansson. “They and their employees are the unsung heroes of the pandemic but once again, they must react to a rule handed down by fiat instead of going through a deliberate regulatory process where the voices of farmers would be heard. We hope the court forces government to follow the law.”