Cal/OSHA Reminds Employers to Protect Outdoor Workers from
Heat Illness during Period of High Heat

Employers in California must take steps to protect outdoor workers from heat illness by providing water, rest, shade and training.

When working in these hotter conditions for the first time this year, workers must be closely observed for any signs of heat illness.

Cal/OSHA’s heat illness prevention standard applies to all outdoor worksites. To prevent heat illness, the law requires employers to provide outdoor workers fresh water, access to shade at 80 degrees and, whenever requested by a worker, cool-down rest breaks in addition to regular breaks. Employers must also maintain a written prevention plan with effective training for supervisors to recognize the common signs and symptoms of heat illness, and what to do in case of an emergency.

In certain industries, when the temperature at outdoor worksites reaches or exceeds 95 degrees, Cal/OSHA’s standard requires additional protections. The industries with additional high-heat requirements are agriculture, construction, landscaping, oil and gas extraction and transportation of agricultural products, construction materials or other heavy materials. High-heat procedures include ensuring employees are observed regularly for signs of heat illness and establishing effective communication methods so workers can contact a supervisor when needed.

Employers with outdoor workers in all industries must take the following steps to prevent heat illness:

  • Plan – Develop and implement an effective written heat illness prevention plan that includes emergency response procedures.
  • Training – Train all employees and supervisors on heat illness prevention.
  • Water – Provide drinking water that is fresh, pure, suitably cool and free of charge so that each worker can drink at least 1 quart per hour, and encourage workers to do so.
  • Rest – Encourage workers to take a cool-down rest in the shade for at least five minutes when they feel the need to do so to protect themselves from overheating. Workers should not wait until they feel sick to cool down.
  • Shade – Provide proper shade when temperatures exceed 80 degrees. Workers have the right to request and be provided shade to cool off at any time.

Cal/OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention special emphasis program includes enforcement of the heat regulation as well as multilingual outreach and training programs for California’s employers and workers. Details on heat illness prevention requirements and training materials are available online on Cal/OSHA’s Heat Illness Prevention web page and the informational website. A Heat Illness Prevention online tool is also available on Cal/OSHA’s website.

Cal/OSHA helps protect workers from health and safety hazards on the job in almost every workplace in California. Employers who have questions or need assistance with workplace health and safety programs can call Cal/OSHA’s Consultation Services Branch at 800-963-9424.

Workers who have questions about heat illness prevention can call 833-579-0927 to speak with a live Cal/OSHA representative between the hours of 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. Complaints about workplace safety and health hazards can be filed confidentially with Cal/OSHA district offices.

California Department of Industrial Relations Website

Employees May Use Sick/Family Leaves for Designated Person

My employee requested time off to care for her neighbor who just had surgery. Do I have to grant her request?

Although a neighbor previously would have been excluded as a qualifying “family member” for whom an employee could take leave under California’s Paid Sick Leave (PSL) law, the law was expanded recently so that an employee can use their PSL time in this type of scenario.

AB 1041, which took effect on January 1, 2023, added a “designated person” to the list of qualifying family members for whom an eligible employee may take leave. And it wasn’t expanded just for PSL purposes — a “designated person” also was added to the California Family Rights Act (CFRA).

However, PSL and CFRA each have different definitions for “designated person.”

Paid Sick Leave

For PSL purposes, a “designated person” is defined as “a person identified by the employee at the time the employee requests paid sick days.”

This means an employee’s designated person can essentially be anyone of their choosing; however, an employer may limit an employee to one designated person per 12-month period for PSL, whether that is measured by calendar year, the employee’s hire date anniversary or some other method to measure the 12-month period for PSL.

PSL can be used for the diagnosis, care, treatment of an existing health condition, or preventive care for an employee or an employee’s family member, which now may include someone like your employee’s neighbor if they choose to designate them as such.

Also keep in mind that several California cities have local paid sick leave ordinances. Employers must comply with both state and local laws, and where they differ, employers must apply whichever one is more beneficial to the employee.

California Family Rights Act

Employees also can now use CFRA leave to care for a “designated person” with a serious health condition, but as stated above, the definition is not identical to the one used for PSL.

For CFRA leave purposes, a “designated person” means “any individual related by blood or whose association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship.” Like with PSL, employers also can limit an employee to one designated person per 12-month period. That 12-month period, however, depends on how you choose to calculate it under your policy for administering leave.

Remember, for employees to be eligible for CFRA leave, they must work for a covered employer (that employs five or more employees), have worked for their employer for at least 12 months as of the time of taking the leave and have worked at least 1,250 hours in the preceding 12 months.

Assuming an employee is eligible and indicated the need to care for a qualifying member (which now may include a “designated person” as defined above), a medical certification is required to designate the leave properly as CFRA.

Additionally, if you also are covered under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the employee also is FMLA-eligible, remember that the FMLA will not run at the same time as this type of CFRA leave because a designated person is not a qualifying family member for purposes of FMLA.

Employers should include designated person as a qualifying family member in their PSL and CFRA policies. If you wish to limit an employee’s ability to name a “designated person” to once within a 12-month period, be sure to update each of your policies accordingly. The person an employee designates for PSL can be different from the person they designate for CFRA.

Sarah Woolston, CalChamber HR Watchdog

When Employees Tell You They’re Burned Out

Amidst record-breaking job turnover, leaders have been feeling pressure to pay attention to the well-being of their workforce. These days, many professionals—one Deloitte study puts the number at 77%—have experienced burnout at their current job.

When an employee comes to you expressing burnout concerns, it can feel challenging to know whether—or how—to deal with it. Lacking training in well-being, many managers don’t know how to respond in the moment, much less how to address the systemic drivers of burnout. This may prompt leaders to suggest traditional Band-Aid approaches, such as recommending some time off, an afternoon yoga class or better time-management skills. While these may be helpful for releasing stress, they’re unlikely to address the root cause of burnout, such as workload, difficult workplace relationships or a lack of autonomy.

It can be challenging for even the most enlightened leaders to have conversations about employee burnout while managing the needs of the business. “I was trained in business, not therapy,” as one of my CEO clients put it. “How do I have this conversation in a way that will be productive and show I care about my people?”

Here are five steps leaders and HR can take when an employee comes to them feeling burned out.

1. Treat your employee’s burnout concerns seriously.

It may be tempting to dismiss an employee’s self-described burnout as an exaggeration, reflecting a general sense of overwhelm or a lack of resilience. But whether or not their situation meets the official definition of burnout, it’s important to take them seriously because something is going on.

Many employees feel unappreciated by their leaders—in fact, only one in four employees feel their employer cares about their well-being. Make time to address the situation as soon as possible through a one-on-one-conversation, not a rushed hallway chat. This shows that you’re concerned and that you care. Taking the time to listen deeply will strengthen the relationship.

In order to ensure your employee feels heard, make sure to allow them to fully express their thoughts without interrupting them. Try to wait seven seconds, or approximately two slow deep breath cycles, before responding. Allow their words to sink in. It’s also important not to make assumptions about their feelings or the causes of their burnout. Practice active listening by repeating back what you’ve heard. Ask if you’ve understood them correctly, and make sure you don’t end the conversation until your employee feels that they’ve expressed what they need to say.

2. Understand their experience of burnout.

When an employee is upset, it can be hard to determine whether they’re temporarily feeling negative emotions, are exhausted in the moment or are truly burned out. Through my research and consulting, I’ve developed three questions that can help leaders quickly assess how their employees are experiencing burnout:

Do you feel competent and effective in your job?

This determines how the employee feels about their efficacy, job performance and ability to fulfill their job responsibilities. Their answer will help you understand if they would benefit from extra support, training or coaching in order to be more effective.

Do you feel emotionally exhausted in your job and/or do you experience physical symptoms?

This covers negative emotions, fatigue and physical health symptoms, such as stress-related headaches, frequent illness, insomnia or anxiety. High-driving performers sometimes continue to perform well while their health suffers, and this can lead a productive employee to leave your organization.

Do you find yourself feeling cynical or caring less than you used to about your colleagues or clients?

This captures a change in the employee’s connection to the work at hand, which often shows up as a general sense of cynicism. People who are normally inspired and dedicated to a cause may notice they’re burned out when they experience a loss of meaning in what used to be purposeful work for them.

Ask your employee how often they experience each of these phenomena: rarely, some of the time or often. Moderate experiences of all three dimensions might indicate the employee is at risk for burnout, while “often” means they may already be burned out.

3. Identify the root causes of their burnout.

Identifying the type of burnout your employee is experiencing is crucial for creating solutions. For instance, investing in an employee’s development can help counter feelings of cynicism about whether their organization really values them.

Start by asking what their biggest stressors are. Most often, your employee has a decent sense of what’s provoking their feelings of burnout. If they don’t, you can prompt them further by asking them to think about a specific time they felt most stressed or burned out. What was happening at that moment? For instance, they might say they’re feeling understaffed on a project, which is causing them to work late and disrupting their sleep. This enables you to get a quick sense of whether the sources of their stress are coming from home (for instance, financial pressures or caregiving responsibilities) or workplace demands (a mismatch between expectations and the time or resources they have to deliver on them).

4. Consider short- and long-term solutions.

As a leader, you need to address your employee’s challenge in the here and now, as well as over the longer term, and those solutions may differ.

To start, ask your employee: What would make this better now? They might have suggestions — for example, extra support for a project, renegotiating an unrealistic deadline or time off. Listen to their ask and see whether you can make a short-term accommodation.

Next, ask them: What will make this better in the long term? After all, an employee may need a week off to reset, but they’ll eventually need to return to work. They may have suggestions for more substantive changes, or you can start ideating on your own. Depending on their needs, possibilities may include giving them more flexibility in how they work, shifting who they work with (moving them to a different team or project) or reconfiguring their job responsibilities. You don’t need to solve all their problems at this point, but it’s useful to start thinking about options.

For instance, one manager described an associate who appeared disengaged and said he was experiencing burnout. He had debilitating migraines and was missing deadlines. After talking to him, the manager discovered the employee had recently acquired a diagnosis of a neurological condition that was aggravated by environmental factors (such as fluorescent lighting and lack of airflow). In the short term, the manager worked with him to create a remote-work solution. This relieved stress and allowed him to perform better while his manager worked on longer-term solutions, including control over lighting, airflow and ergonomic support. This enabled him to return to the office and improve his engagement.

In another instance, a senior partner experienced a death in the family, placing him in a primary caregiving role. He went from being a top performer with infectious energy to making cynical comments in meetings. Year-end reviews showed he was impacting team morale. Eventually, the partner increased staffing on his client engagements so he could step back and take some time off to put care structures in place, and received coaching to address his leadership behaviors.

5. Create a monitoring plan.

Solving burnout isn’t a one-time fix; it’s important to recognize that changes have to be sustained over time. Work with your employee to define what their ideal state of well-being and engagement looks like in the long term—for instance, feeling energized after work or engaging in meaningful high-quality connections daily in the flow of work. From there, work backward to identify clear steps that you and your employee can act on, such as setting aside distraction-free time for deep work, and plan regular check-ins to monitor progress.

Burnout is affecting both leaders and employees—and contributing to a talent shortage that’s challenging and costly to navigate. When an employee comes to you saying they’re burned out, you need to be prepared to deal with it. By following these five strategies, you’ll be better equipped to solve your burnout problems and retain your talent.

Noémie Le Pertel, SHRM