State Sexual Harassment Laws Trump Federal
In November of 2001, California’s Third District Court of Appeals ruled that the state’s legislation on sexual harassment overruled the more lenient federal regulations.

The decision was made in relation to a suit — Department of Health Services versus The Superior Court of Sacramento County (McGinnis) 01 C.D.O.S. 9999 — filed by Theresa McGinnis, a Department of Health Services employee who complained that her supervisor had sexually harassed her over an extended period.

According to Title VII of the federal anti-discrimination law, an employer is not liable for sexual harassment by a supervisor if the employer exercised reasonable care to prevent such behavior and if the plaintiff unreasonably failed to take advantage of corrective or preventative measures provided by the employer.

In McGinnis’ case, however, California’s legislation — one of the toughest in the nation on the subject of sexual harassment — did not offer the company the same shield. The Court upheld California's Fair Employment and Housing Act, which doesn’t set time limits on the amount of time it takes the plaintiff to seek help in sexual harassment cases.

Since DHS v. McGinnis is the only California court decision on the subject, any supervisor harassment claim brought in California is much more likely to be brought under state rather than federal law.

Mop/Broom Labeling Standards
In an effort to standardize their product labels, members of the broom and mop industry formed a committee in late 2001 to develop a standard labeling system for brooms and mops.

American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) Subcommittee F15.54 intends to classify brooms and mops according to their material content and provide uniform wording for product labels.

The subcommittee encourages consumers and other stakeholders to participate in the development of these standards. Present members include broom and mop manufacturers; distributors and suppliers; bulk end-users from contract cleaning services; school districts, and hospitals; and professional association members.

To participate, contact Ken Hutton from the American Brush Manufacturers Association.

DOT Revises Driver Drug Testing Regulations
Employees who drive commercial vehicles for carrying equipment and personnel to job sites will be required to comply with the Department of Transportation (DOT) revised rule governing drug and alcohol testing procedures, 49 CFR Part 40.

The revisions are based on a review of comments from interested individuals and organizations, and include more than 100 policy interpretations. The complete text of the revised rules can be viewed here.

Window Standard Approved
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) has approved I-14.1, a two-part window-cleaning-safety standard developed by the International Window Cleaning Association (IWCA).

Part A standard I-14.1 addresses safety guidelines for the use of window cleaning access equipment, while Part B is geared toward those who manufacture, design or install the equipment. The equipment covered in this part of the standard includes rope-descending systems, transportable and permanent suspended scaffolds, ladders and man-lifts.

Copies of the standard are available from IWCA and can be ordered from the Association’s Website.

Indoor Air Quality
OSHA Withdraws Proposal
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is withdrawing an inactive indoor air quality regulation proposed in 1994.

The proposed regulation addressed the risk posed to employees by environmental tobacco smoke and other factors contributing to poor indoor air quality. It also proposed that all employers implement a plan to address IAQ problems by identifying controls for specific contaminants and their sources, such as microbial contamination, pesticides, cleaning chemicals and other hazardous chemicals used in the workplace.

In addition, employers would have had to keep a written record of employee complaints or signs of symptoms that may be related to building-related illness. The record was to list information about the illness reported, how many employees were affected, complaint dates and the action taken by the employer to correct the source of the problem.

In the years since the proposal was issued, many state and local governments and private employers have taken action to curtail smoking in public areas and in workplaces, making that portion of the rule unnecessary.

“This action takes the positive step of setting aside what has become a contentious and unproductive effort,” says John Henshaw, assistant secretary of OSHA.

Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids backed Henshaw’s statement by stating, “The urgency for federal action that existed when the rule making began has been changed by the actions of local communities, private employers and the states.”

This information is intended as a summary of legal information and should in no way be construed as legal advice. Contact your attorney before proceeding with any legal action.