Global Workplace Insider - A Norton Rose Fulbright Blog

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration is contemplating several, and extensive, changes to its existing Process Safety Management (PSM) standard, and will be seeking public comments.

Broadly speaking, the PSM standard requires employers to implement safety programs that identify, evaluate and control highly hazardous chemicals.

Contemplated changes to the

On May 28, 2021, the employer community got its first glimpse of a revised Cal/OSHA emergency, temporary standard (ETS) for COVID-19 that may become law by June 15, 2021. That day—June 15—is significant because it is the date the governor set as a goal for California to “fully open its economy.” In addition, the CDC’s

We reported previously on federal OSHA’s efforts to revise and update various provisions of the Hazard Communication Standard in order to pursue greater workplace safety.  On May 20, 2021, OSHA announced an informal public hearing commencing on September 21, 2021 for the purpose of entertaining stakeholder comments and recommendations.  For more information, please see this

Federal OSHA has recently released guidance advising on employer health and safety obligations when employers require employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of employment. Specifically, OSHA addresses the potential (albeit rare to date) of an employee who incurs an adverse reaction to a mandated vaccination. In such a situation, the reaction will

It is difficult to imagine that the evil of human trafficking, and all the pain and suffering it entails, can still be so pervasive this deep into the 21st Century. One would have expected that contemporary domestic and international law enforcement, to say nothing of the United Nations and all the monies it has at its disposal for such purposes, would serve as a resolute bulwark against this scourge of modern humanity. And yet it is a dominant player in the headlines as we learn daily of some new outrage perpetrated by those who would profit from human misery, sexual abuse, prostitution, illegal narcotics distribution, and other criminal enterprises.

There is a particularly scurrilous, often unrecognized activity within this umbrella of behavior that gets little attention and yet may be among the most pervasive—the grooming by US domiciliaries (whether or not citizens) of young, poor and often undereducated foreign nationals—from Asia, Central and South America, Eastern Europe and Africa­—to serve as household servants under the guise of promising adoption, education, employment and other illusory opportunities in the United States. Indeed, in conjunction with our public service law colleagues, we are representing such individuals in pro bono civil litigation against their captors in efforts to obtain both just compensation for the services rendered (routinely denied them), the restoration of their passports (typically taken from them), and the opportunity to be freed from what amounts to indentured servitude.

These situations exist among us, in our own neighborhoods, in the most unsuspected of places.  The law provides us with robust means of rooting them out and remedying the situation.

California Wage Order 15

We write today about the application of California Department of Industrial Relations Wage Order 15 (codified at 8 Cal. Code Regs. § 11150) to this “household occupations” circumstance. Subject to certain well-articulated (and largely inapplicable) exceptions, Wage Order 15 addresses the necessary minimum wages and employment times and conditions (e.g., meal and rest periods; facilities) to be afforded those working in the home environment. These include prospective deductions for meals and lodging provided to the worker.

The typical situation we address in this context concerns a young man or woman brought to the United States from their home country by a “patron” who has perhaps promised to adopt them and otherwise provide for their education, sustenance, housing, and employment in America.  Some victims might be requested to lie about their age and status (claiming to be an “orphan” even if one or both parents are alive) in order to ease any “adoption” process. Once in the United States, however, the relationship changes dramatically. The patron seizes the victim’s passport and enslaves the victim in the patron’s or another’s home to serve as a virtual around-the-clock servant, often without pay and perhaps even charging “rent” for the provision of room and board.

In cynical efforts to avoid the requirements of Wage Order 15, the patron may claim that the Order, by its terms, does not apply to legally adopted children (8 Cal. Code Regs. § 11150 (1)(C)) and/or that the victim is serving as a “personal attendant” to the patron’s elderly or infirm family member (8 Cal. Code Regs. § 11150 (1)(B)). The realities of the situation demonstrate, however, that neither avenue is availing.

On February 5, 2021, federal OSHA issued a proposed rule to update the US Department of Labor’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS or HazCom) to align with the seventh revision of the United Nations’ Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS).  In support of its proposed rule, OSHA asserts the update will increase

On July 27, 2020, the first state “Emergency Temporary Standard” (ETS) for COVID-19 went into effect. The ETS requires employers in the state to develop and implement COVID-19 prevention and control measures in the workplace. The ETS is in effect for six months, although this period could be shortened if the Virginia State of Emergency