For Immediate Release Dec. 4, 2023, Exeter, Calif. – The 2023 frost season is underway for San Joaquin Valley citrus growers. That means growers will be closely monitoring weather forecasts to [...]
Labor and Employment
California’s $3 billion citrus industry creates over 20,000 year-round jobs. To ensure all employees are guaranteed a safe work environment, in the packing house and in the field; employers in the citrus industry closely adhere to all labor laws and regulations.
Heat Illness Prevention
As of May 1, 2015, California employers are required to adhere to new Cal/OSHA standards for Heat Illness Prevention.
Shade must be erected when temperature reaches 80° F. The amount of shade provided must be sufficient to accommodate all employees on recovery or rest periods and meal periods so they can sit in a normal posture fully in the shade without having to be in physical contact with each other.
Shade may be provided by any natural or artificial means that does not expose employees to unsafe or unhealthy conditions and that does not deter or discourage access or use.
Natural shade provided by citrus trees is an acceptable form of shade.
Shade must be easy for employees to reach. Workers should not encounter any obstacles, hazardous or unreasonably unpleasant conditions while moving towards the shade or resting in the shade.
Water must be fresh, pure, suitably cool and located as close as practicable to where employees are working, unless an employer can demonstrate infeasibility.
Fresh and Pure
Water must be fit to drink (i.e., potable) and free from odors that would discourage workers from drinking the water.
If an employer supplies individual water containers, the containers must be clean, and a source of potable water (e.g., a municipal water source) must be readily available. Water from non-approved or non-tested water sources (e.g., untested wells) is not acceptable. If hoses or connections are used, they must be governmentally approved for potable drinking water systems, as shown on the manufacturer’s label.
During hot weather, the water must be cooler than the ambient temperature, but not so cool as to cause discomfort.
As Close As Practicable to Where Employees Are Working
During a Cal/OSHA inspection, the inspector may ask the supervisor to describe the factors the employer considered in deciding where to place water. For example, although the employer may show it is impossible or prohibited by law to place water stations within rows of crops where employees are working, it may be possible to place the water stations at the end of rows. Because water containers are smaller than shade structures, they can be placed closer to employees than shade structures can be. Placing water only in designated shade areas or where toilet facilities are located is not sufficient. When employees are working across large areas, water should be placed in multiple locations
Preventative Cool-Down Rest Period
Employees will have to be monitored for signs of heat illness and may not be ordered back to work until any signs or symptoms of heat illness have abated or five minutes have elapsed, whichever is later. Employees with symptoms must be provided appropriate first aid or emergency response.
Employers must implement high-heat procedures when the temperature reaches 95º F.
Employers are responsible for observing employees for alertness and signs or symptoms of heat illness. The employer shall ensure effective employee observation/monitoring by implementing one or more of the following:
- Supervisor or designee observation of 20 or fewer employees
- Mandatory buddy system
- Regular communication with sole employee such as by radio or cellular phone, or
- Other effective means of observation.
One or more employees on each worksite must be designated as authorized to call for emergency medical services, and allowing other employees to call for emergency services when no designated employee is available.
Pre-shift meetings will be required to review high-heat procedures, to encourage them to drink plenty of water, and to remind them of their right to take a cool-down rest when necessary.
Agricultural employees are required to take a preventative cool-down rest period for at least 10 minutes every two hours. Cal/OSHA has indicated that these breaks can be concurrent with IWC-required rest periods. In addition, agricultural employees working more than eight hours will have to take such a rest period at the end of the eighth hour of work and at the end of every even-numbered hour of work after that.
Heat Acclimation Procedures
Employers/supervisors must closely observe all employees during a heat wave (80° F). New employees must be closely observed for their first two weeks on the job.
In 2013, the California Court of Appeals made a final ruling that employees who are paid on a piece rate must be compensated for their break times and all other non-productive work time (NPWT), including heat illness recovery periods, mandatory daily exercises, travel, safety training, delayed entry to the field, and other mandatory workplace training.
The California Labor Commissioner has taken the position that rest periods and cool down recovery periods must be compensated based upon the average piece-rate hourly earnings calculated on a weekly basis. All other NPWT will be subject to either the applicable minimum wage or the general hourly rate.
It is recommended that employers document and pay for all non-productive time separate from piece-rate production earnings and ensure that this payment is separately itemized on the employee’s paycheck stub pursuant to Labor Code Section 226. You should consult with your legal advisor whether to pay either the base hourly rate or the average hourly piece rate earnings for the week for all rest periods and any Heat Illness Recovery Periods requested by employees.
Reminder: A 10-minute rest break is earned for every four hours worked of major fraction thereof.
Paid Sick Leave
California’s Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014 requires employers to provide paid sick leave for employees who meet minimum requirements. The following provisions went into effect on July 13, 2014 after Governor Brown signed legislation which made significant changes to the 2014 law.
Qualification – An employee in California who has been employed by a same employer for 30 or more days within a year of when employment began is qualified for paid sick leave pay.
Accrual Basis – Paid sick leave can now be accrued on any period basis so long as it is on a regular basis and will result in at least 24 hours (3 days) of sick leave by the 120th calendar day of employment. For example, paid sick leave can be accrued per pay period or other regularly occurring period of time (weekly, bi-weekly, etc.)
Use of Sick Leave – Employers may limit the use of sick leave to 3 days or 24 hours in each year of employment, calendar year, or 12-month period.
Payment of Sick Leave – Paid sick leave can be paid in one of two ways for non-exempt employees:
- Based on regular rate of pay during the workweek in which the employee uses paid sick time whether or not the employee actually works overtime in that workweek.
- Calculated by dividing the employee’s total wages, not including overtime, by the total number of hours worked in the full pay periods of the prior 90 days of employment.
For exempt employees, paid sick time is calculated in the same manner as the employer calculates wages for other forms of paid leave time.