Grape and Tree Fruit League
Urge Governor Brown to Veto Heat Illness Bills
In a recent OnTarget Newsletter from the Fresno-based California Grape and Tree Fruit League, two labor-driven bills await action by Governor Jerry Brown where he has until September 30 to sign or veto all pending legislation.
AB 2346 (Butler, D-El Segundo) creates a private right of action and joint liability for heat stress violations. If signed, the bill would allow farm workers to sue their employers for violations of the Heat Illness Prevention Standard, go to court to seek an injunction against their employers to compel compliance and allow employees to sue farmers for any damages caused by the failure to comply. Additionally, it allows farm workers to sue either their immediate employer if that employer is a farm labor contractor (FLC) or the owner of the property (the farmer or rancher) where the worker was working, making farmers liable for violations committed by farm labor contractors, and imposes civil penalties of up to $200,000. The bill purports to restrict the ability of farm workers to sue employers by requiring that the employer be a “repeat offender.” This provision is meaningless, as virtually any employer, or any farmer or rancher contracting with FLC, can be deemed a repeat offender by merely being accused of being a repeat offender, or by the FLC being accused of being a repeat offender.
AB 2676 (Calderon, D-Montebello) seeks to clarify that it is a misdemeanor, in the penal code, to fail to provide both continuous, ready access to shade and water that is suitably cool and available in quantities sufficient to allow the employee to drink one quart of water per hour throughout the employee’s work shift. The bill increases penalties and provides that a violation of the above misdemeanor is punishable by imprisonment, not exceeding six months, and/or a fine not exceeding $10,000 or if a violation of the above misdemeanor causes injury, it is punishable by up to one year and/or a fine not exceeding $25,000. Existing law provides that, except in cases where a different punishment is prescribed by law, every offense declared to be a misdemeanor is punishable by imprisonment not exceeding six months, or by a fine not exceeding $1,000, or by both.
Both bills, if signed, would compound the existing challenges impacting the ability to operate a viable business in California and would jeopardize the sustainability of agricultural production regions as economic drivers.
You are encouraged to contact Governor Brown to urge his veto of both bills. Due to the Urgency of Time please fax your letter to (916) 558-3160 or visit http://govnews.ca.gov/gov39mail/mail.php to voice concern on both bills. On the Governor’s “Contact” page, enter your name, email address and choose the subject form (a drop-down menu). Select choices AB 02346 and AB 02676, then choose your position (“con”) and type your message in the space provided.