Baby, It's Hot Outside! OSHA Undertakes
Campaign to Prevent Heat-Related Illness in the Workplace
Mark J. Neuberger
Much of the country has been sweltering under record high
temperatures in what may yet develop into the hottest summer on record.
Maintaining normal operations and productivity during record heat can pose a
number of management challenges. OSHA has no specific standards or regulations
concerning heat-related illness, but every employer is obligated by the General Duty Clause (http://tinyurl.com/5uvh67)
to furnish to every employee with a place of employment free from recognized
hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm
to employees. In addition, many state labor departments have regulations that
may apply to your individual workplaces. According to OSHA, heat stroke killed
more than 30 workers last year.
Despite the lack of OSHA standards governing hot weather
working conditions, the summer of 2011 has not escaped the federal government's
attention. OSHA has produced a new subsection of its Web site entitled Water.
Rest. Shade. (http://tinyurl.com/3bqo442)
devoted to educating employees and workers on the peril of and preventive
measures for heat-related illness. The page also provides a number of useful
informational guides and training tools (http://tinyurl.com/3f5a42u).
The issues associated with heat-related illness are not
limited to those who work outdoors. Any employee who is subjected to hot and
humid working conditions is at risk of suffering heat-related illness.
Employees who, for other reasons, must wear bulky protective clothing and
equipment face greater risk as do employees with underlying health conditions.
The warning signs of heat-related illness are not always
obvious. They include:
Like most workplace safety issues, preventive steps are
recommended to decrease the risk of injury or illness. The first thing
employers should do is monitor upcoming weather trends and anticipate when the
next heat wave will hit. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
has its own Web site called Heat Watch (http://tinyurl.com/4mk6yf) with an informational heat index
and associated heat watches and warnings. To prepare for unusually high heat
conditions management should:
Screening Out "Unemployed" Applicants
Could Be Costly
Scott P. Inciardi
National unemployment statistics remain dire. The Labor
Department's most recent report (http://tinyurl.com/dje47)
reveals that unemployment has risen for each of the last four months, and now
stands at 9.2 percent. More than 14 million Americans are officially unemployed
- and this number does not even include those who have given up looking for
work. In this environment, a number of employers is using recruitment and
hiring policies that screen out the unemployed, simply because they are not
currently working. Several months ago, the EEOC concluded
that such practices may violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and the EEOC
chair questioned whether such practices are compliant with federal law
The basis of such a claim of discrimination would be the
following: As severe as the unemployment figures are, they are
disproportionately higher for a number of protected classes. Thus, some
commentators have observed that women, and particularly older women, have
suffered more severely in the current recession and form a disproportionately
large sector of the unemployed. Others have noted that the practice of
excluding unemployed applicants may have a disproportionate effect on certain
racial and ethnic minority members of the community who also have experienced
loss of employment in far greater numbers than national averages. Accordingly,
refusing to consider unemployed applicants could have a discriminatory
"disparate impact" on those protected groups.
Mindful of this situation, two members of Congress have
introduced the Fair Employment Opportunity Act of 2011 (http://tinyurl.com/3quylum)
which, if passed, would prohibit employers and employment agencies from
refusing to consider job applicants solely because they were unemployed.
Whether or not federal legislators approve such new legislation, some states
are already taking action to prohibit the use of such criteria. For example,
New Jersey recently passed legislation that makes it illegal for employers and
staffing firms to publish job postings that exclude the unemployed from
consideration. Similar legislation (http://tinyurl.com/3vejdvm) is pending in New York.
Whether the federal bill will pass is open to question in
the current anti-regulatory political environment in Washington. However, this
legislative activity, allied with state legislation and an increasing focus on
the legality of excluding applicants based on their employment status,
emphasizes that this issue is gaining greater attention; and employers would be
well advised to review their hiring policies and determine what risks they may
be taking by screening out applicants simply because they are not currently
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