California Heat Stroke Law

The state of California continues to place obligations for preventing employee heat stroke onto employers. In the latest move, on January 1, 2015 California heat stroke law clarified that cooldown periods or “recovery periods” must be paid, by state law.

In a series of regulations beginning in 2013 under the CAL-OSHA Heat Illness Prevention Regulations, the state has required all employers with outdoor places of employment to implement a heat stress and heat stroke prevention program that includes providing workers with 5-minute cooldown rest breaks in the shade, each hour. Subsequently, the state clarified that employees could not be required to do any form of work during these 5-minute breaks. Now CAL-OSHA is clarifying that these breaks must be paid, under both federal and state minimum wage laws.

In 2014 Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that penalizes employers who fail to grant recovery periods or cooldown breaks to employees, by requiring them to pay each worker for an additional hour of work, per day. This provision is similar to the penalties that California employers face when they fail to give employees the meal or rest breaks that are required by law.

Under this law, every California employer with an outdoor place of employment must adopt a heat stroke and heat illness prevention policy that includes additional procedures when temperatures soar above 95 degrees. Additional regulations apply to select industries: agriculture, construction, oil and gas extraction, landscaping, and transportation or delivery of agricultural products, construction materials, or other heavy materials. However, the paid cooldown or recovery period applies to California employers in all industries.

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