Michael Burgis & Associates, P.C.

Los Angeles Workers' Compensation Law Blog

Your rights as a pregnant employee in California

Being pregnant while working can naturally create some challenges, even in the best of circumstances. This is because many expectant mothers go through health struggles intermittently in their pregnancy, or suffer considerably at certain periods. For example, pregnant women who are suffering from extreme morning sickness may be forced to take time off work, and they may even need to be admitted to the hospital. Furthermore, many pregnant women struggle with insomnia, which could also affect their ability to work throughout their pregnancy.

If you are pregnant or if you are planning to get pregnant, you should take the time to understand your rights in the California workplace as a pregnant employee. By doing so, you will be better equipped to assert your rights if they are violated. The following are some of the key rights in California for pregnant employees.

Heat-related workplace injuries and illness can be fatal

Every summer, thousands of California workers risk their lives working outdoors in extreme heat. Although work doesn't stop when conditions become hazardous, the risks can be mitigated. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health goes to great lengths each year to urge employers to prioritize the safety of employees who are at risk of suffering heat-related workplace injuries or illnesses.

Sadly, not all employers take the necessary care to protect workers. Cal/OSHA is currently investigating the death of a farmworker in Kern County. Reportedly, the incident happened on July 31. Authorities say a landscaping company employed the 56-year-old man. He was involved in the installation of an irrigation system in an almond orchard in Arvin on the day that he died.

Respiratory issues you face after decades in the workforce

The air you breathe on the job is not always as clean and pure as it should be. Carpenters deal with constant wood dust in the air. Home renovators may breathe in asbestos. Factory workers could deal with mold. Workers who use strong chemicals can inhale all manner of fumes.

Over time, you may stop thinking about the sheer amount of exposure you get, but it can take a serious toll. Even when you don't breathe in that much of a contaminant with every individual breath, spending years or even decades breathing that air puts you at a serious disadvantage. You could wind up with some type of occupational respiratory disease.

Emissions of toxic chemical dust can cause workplace injuries

Federal and state safety authorities prescribe strict regulations to protect workers nationwide, including California, from the dangers posed by combustible dust. All chemical manufacturing plants mix hazardous compounds, and employers must protect employees from known hazards that could cause workplace injuries. They must comply with specific and general safety standards.

These regulations specify permissible exposure limits, and exceeding those limits can cause serious health problems. Chemical processing typically involves blending, drying, mixing and conveying compounds that become airborne. Not only do they create dangerous air quality, but they also pose significant explosion and fire hazards.

Workplace injuries: Valley fever threatens California workers

Workers in California who are exposed to dust in areas in which valley fever is endemic are vulnerable to be infected by the airborne Coccidioides immitis fungus. It typically infects the lungs to cause valley fever, but it could spread to other tissues. When this happens, the condition is called disseminated coccidioidomycosis. Fortunately, infected workers have the same rights to workers' compensation benefits to cover medical expenses and lost wages as those who suffer other workplace injuries.

While some infections are mild, severe cases of valley fever could cause pneumonia or bronchitis. However, if it disseminates, the infection can attack organs like brain tissue, joints, bones, skin and more. Some such cases even lead to death. At the highest risk are farmworkers, construction workers, military personnel and trainees, correctional officers, wildfire fighters, and employees in the oil and gas extraction industry and mining.

Can they fire you to prevent a workers' comp claim?

You're working outside, on a busy construction site, when you get hit by a vehicle driven by another worker. They have to rush you to the hospital. You have serious spinal injuries. While you do hope to recover in time, you know that you're not going back to work on Monday. It could be weeks or months before you even consider working again. It may never happen.

You quickly realize that you need to file for workers' compensation. Every day that you can't go to work, you lose wages. Every day that you spend in the hospital, the medical bills get that much higher. You didn't anticipate these costs. You have no way to cover them.

Workplace injuries: Preventing back injuries

California workers in all industries are vulnerable to back injuries. These workplace injuries threaten employees from construction, warehousing and transportation industries to office workers and cashiers. However, proper safety training can prevent back injuries, and the responsibility to provide such training is on the shoulders of the employer.

Typical causes of back injuries include improper lifting, pushing pulling and moving objects, and also extended periods of sitting or standing -- especially with wrong postures. The prevention of back injuries involves training in proper lifting and carrying and putting down heavy or large objects. When an object is picked up, it is essential to use the leg muscles and not the back muscles. This is done by bending the knees and keeping the back straight because bending at the waist or twisting the spine can have severe consequences.

Thunderstorms and lightning can cause severe workplace injuries

The hazards posed by thunderstorms and lightning don't always receive the amount of attention they deserve. It might not be a danger that California workers face every day, but employers must ensure that workers are prepared for unexpected thunderstorms. Employees who are not familiar with the steps to take to avoid lightning could suffer severe workplace injuries.

Although being struck directly is unusual, anyone in an open area can receive a fatal bolt, and if lightning strikes a tall object such as a tree, a side flash can hit a worker seeking shelter under the tree. Many injuries and deaths from lightning bolts are caused by ground strikes that cause the energy to travel along the surface of the ground. Lightning can also be conducted by metal, and another potential, but less common threat is being in the way of a streamer.

The realities of pregnancy discrimination

For many women, finding out that they are pregnant is one of the best moments of their lives. Unfortunately, an employer may not see it the same way. They may resent that the worker is pregnant for numerous reasons. The employer may not want to pay them during maternity leave. They may worry that the worker will eventually quit to be with their family. They may assume that a pregnant woman will not be able to do her job as well as someone who is not pregnant. They may assume that mothers only care about their families and not their careers.

Without hard hat, workplace injuries might have been fatal

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health mandates that employers must provide workers with the necessary personal protective equipment. Compliance with these regulations likely saved the life of a 25-year-old, newly married worker in Fresno. The man's father and his doctor agree that the workplace injuries he suffered could have been fatal had he not worn a hard hat.

Reportedly, the accident occurred on a recent Monday at the site of a steel tank manufacturing company that employs the injured man. According to his father, he was struck on the head by a 250-pound ball that came crashing down when the line that held it on a crane snapped. The circumstances that led to the line breaking is yet to be determined.

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