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Industry Insights

CAAA: SB 1299's Heat Presumption Is Critical

  • State: California

Late last month, the California Senate voted 29-9 to pass SB 1299, by Sen. Dave Cortese, D-Campbell). The bill now moves to the Assembly Insurance Committee.

SB 1299 would create a presumption that heat-related injuries and illnesses arose out of employment for outdoor agricultural workers if the employer failed to comply with heat illness prevention standards. The bill also declares the intentions of the California Legislature to prevent increasing heat-related injuries among farmworkers as climate change raises temperatures and by persuading employers to do whatever is necessary to prevent heat injuries.

Sponsored by United Farm Workers and written by CAAA Executive Director Diane Worley and Legislative Chair Jason Marcus, SB 1299 "is aimed at protecting our farming workforce by expediting claims and encouraging employers to follow longstanding heat safety regulations," Cortese said.

Under the law, injuries are defined as "any heat-related injury, illness or death that develops or manifests after the employee was working outdoors during or within the pay period in which an employee suffers any heat-related illness, injury, or death."

The bill would transfer $5 million from the Workers’ Compensation Administration Revolving Fund to create and support the Farmworker Climate Change Heat Injury and Death Fund to pay for administrative costs of the presumption.

SB 1299 is a necessary step in addressing the vulnerabilities of farmworkers who are disproportionately affected by extreme heat. As climate change continues to exacerbate temperature extremes, the health risks to outdoor agricultural workers increase, making the enforcement of heat illness prevention standards crucial.

The presumption established by SB 1299 would incentivize employers to adhere strictly to these standards, thereby reducing the incidence of heat-related illnesses and injuries. This legislation cannot come soon enough, with major heat waves sweeping across California. As temperatures soar, the risks faced by agricultural workers will be significantly heightened. The health and safety of farmworkers, which has been woefully neglected, should be a top priority for those who play such a critical role in the state’s agricultural economy.

This opinion by the California Applicants' Attorneys Association communications team is republished with permission from the CAAA website.

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