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Workplace Health & Safety

Wage and Hour
Family & Medical Leave
Unemployment Insurance
State Disability Insurance
Workplace Health & Safety
Workers Compensation
Employment Discrimination
Wrongful Termination
These laws are designed to eliminate personal injuries and illnesses from occurring in the workplace. The laws consist primarily of federal and state statutes. Federal laws and regulations preempt state law where they overlap or contradict one another.

The main statute protecting the health and safety of workers in the workplace is the Occupational and Safety Health Act (OSHA) 29 U.S.C. 678.

Congress enacted this legislation under its Constitutional grant of authority to regulate interstate commerce. OSHA requires the Secretary of Labor to promulgate regulations and safety and health standards to protect employees and their families. 29 C.F.R. Parts 1901-2200. Every private employer who engages in interstate commerce is subject to the regulations promulgated under OSHA.

The Secretary of Labor may authorize workplace inspections to ensure that regulations are being followed, examine conditions about which complaints have been filed, and determine what regulations are needed. If an employer is violating a safety or health regulation a citation is issued.

The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission reviews DOL citation orders. The Commission's decision is subject to judicial review. The Secretary of Labor may impose fines with the amounts varying according to the type of violation and length of non-compliance with the citation. The Secretary of Labor may also seek an injunction to restrain conditions or practices which pose a immediate threat to employees.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, under the Secretary of Health and Welfare, conducts research on workplace health and safety and recommends regulations to the Secretary of Labor. The regulations that have been promulgated under OSHA are extensive, currently filling five volumes of the Code of Federal Regulations.

States may not promulgate any laws that regulate an area directly covered by OSHA regulations without permission. States may, however, regulate in areas not governed by federal OSHA regulations. If they wish to regulate areas covered by OSHA regulations they must submit a plan for federal approval.

The amount of state regulation varies greatly. California is an example of a state that has chosen to adopt many of its own regulations in place of those promulgated under OSHA.

California Occupational Safety and Health Program (CAL/OSHA)
California administers its own workplace safety and health program pursuant to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. The Act permits states to manage their own occupational safety and health programs if they meet certain federal requirements. OSHA monitors and funds Cal/OSHA. California Labor Code Section 6400 requires that employers provide a safe and healthful place of employment and mandates that Cal/OSHA certify, insure and inspect workplace safety.

The Department of Industrial Relations administers Cal/OSHA; its regulations appear at Title 8 California Code of Regulations.

Cal/OSHA promulgates standards to protect worker health and safety including areas where no comparable federal standards exist. These include such standards for carcinogenic substances, asbestos, construction, workplace security (protection from violence from strangers, customers, clients, coworkers) ergonomics, on-the-job transmission of bloodborne illness (hepatitis-B and HIV), and lead.

Governing regulations require that workers are entitled to: work in safe and healthful conditions, be trained in safe work practices, be informed when exposed to harmful substances, and refuse jobs that violate the law. Cal/OSHA conducts work site inspections and can issue citations and penalties for violations of health and safety standards.

Workers may file complaints against employers for unsafe and unhealthful working conditions. If employers discriminate against workers for exercising their rights under the law, they may complain to the State Labor Commissioner within 30 days. The Labor Commissioner may bring action in court against the employer; relief includes employee rehire, reinstatement and reimbursement for lost wages and work benefits.