No matter where you work, whether in an office building, restaurant or factory, you don’t need to look hard to find posted signs about everything from your right to workers’ compensation to the presence of harmful chemicals. State and federal laws require employers to post these signs in public places where they can inform everyone about their rights and risks. One of these signs is being put under the microscope and at the San Diego County Apartment Association, we think it’s about time.
In 1986, California voters passed Proposition 65. This much-needed initiative required signs to be posted in public workplaces about what kinds of chemicals or carcinogens employees or patrons may be exposed to — pesticides, lead paint or asbestos, for example. While no one questions the necessity of the mandate in Prop. 65, years of experience have brought to light shortcomings and loopholes that need to be closed.
One serious issue is the vagueness in Prop. 65. How much of a chemical needs to be present for a company to be required to report it? And if it is decided that they have to report it, how detailed does their posting have to be?
The absence of bright lines on these issues has proved to be a danger both to the public and to the companies that have to comply. Many frivolous lawsuits have won their day in court because the law does not provide clarity about what an employer is or is not obligated to do.
But reform is on the horizon. Assembly Bill 227 is the result of a bipartisan effort to shore up the faults in Prop. 65. Among other things, it would shield honest business owners from frivolous lawsuits. If employers properly post signs within 15 days of being notified, they would simply receive a $500 fine. It is more often the case that small business owners are not aware of the law than that they are flagrantly ignoring it. The goal is always compliance, not penalty.
But AB 227 still has distance to travel in its path to adoption. The state Legislature is still considering the bill, which has not yet been put up to a vote. Please join us in support of AB 227.
Pentico is executive director of the San Diego County Apartment Association.