CalChamber Fighting Unlimited Access to Employer Documents

Aug 15 2017 - Injury and Illness Prevention, Privacy - HRWatchdog

unlimited access to employer documents

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A California Chamber of Commerce-opposed bill that allows organizations unaffiliated with the employer to access an undefined and potentially unlimited scope of employer internal documents awaits action by the state Senate.

AB 978 (Limón; D-Goleta) also circumvents the rulemaking process now underway to provide employees access to their employer’s Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP).

In response to a public request, the California Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) Standards Board is moving to establish in regulation a process for employees to gain access to their employer’s IIPP.

The CalChamber-led coalition opposing AB 978 proposes the bill be amended to reflect in statute the regulatory action ordered by the Board to begin the rulemaking process. The scope of the new rule is to identify the appropriate methods and representatives to obtain a copy of an employer’s IIPP.

The coalition supports the Board’s decision to begin rulemaking on this important issue without waiting for legislation to develop a rule. Therefore, the coalition opposes AB 978 as drafted unless the bill is amended to reflect the rulemaking that is currently mandated by the Board under its authority to protect worker safety and health in the workplace.

The coalition opposes AB 978 as drafted for these reasons:

  • Preempts the regulatory process currently underway to provide a process for employees to access their employer’s IIPP.
  • Allows unlimited organizations and individuals having no affiliation with the employer or employee (other than being designated as such) to access the employer’s internal documents.
  • Keeps the identity of the employee making the request hidden from the employer.
  • Leaves open the question of the scope of documents to be provided.
  • Creates easy opportunity for outside organizations and individuals to harass employers and “fish” for information in an unlimited manner.
  • Creates burdens and unlimited costs on employers to comply.
  • Circumvents established pathways for access to employer documents through legitimate means. 

Costly Burden on Employers

Employers would be subject to an unlimited number of requests by an unlimited number of organizations for a potentially unending supply of documents. The employer would be required to pull together all the documents in question, copy them, and return them to their proper storage for each request. Most employers will contact an attorney before responding to determine the extent of documents subject to the request, which also has a cost, plus the costs of nuisance litigation that would surely follow many requests. Compliance costs would depend on the size of the company, the number of employees and the type of company.

Action Needed

The Cal/OSHA Standards Board is the appropriate entity to establish a safety rule to encompass the requirements of providing employee access to their employer’s IIPP. The rulemaking process currently underway should be allowed to continue with the result of a rule in the California Code of Regulations.

AB 978 is awaiting a vote by the Senate when they return from summer recess. The CalChamber is asking members to contact their senators and urge them to oppose AB 978.

For more information, visit CalChamber’s Top Story.

Staff Contact: Marti Fisher

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