top of page

California Businesses and Organizations Face Steep Fines for COVID Workplace Violations

Over one thousand California businesses and organizations like the Kaiser Hospital System, Foster Poultry Farms, and Saugus Union School District have received fines for workplace COVID violations from Cal/OSHA. The new regulations mean these fines are not going away.

In recently updated data on California government websites, a massive number of California businesses have received inspections and fines for poor compliance with occupational safety standards regarding COVID. The total number of companies that were fined exceeds one thousand and includes big corporations like Walgreens, United Parcel Service, and Amazon. The magnitude of the fines exceeded hundreds of thousands of dollars in many cases. Penalties were based on failure to comply with safety regulations regarding COVID. A complete record of the fines is updated and listed here.

The types of workplaces that were fined included every kind of establishment, from offices to grocery stores. High-profile companies that received fines included food processing companies such as Smithfield Foods, high-traffic retail stores like Walgreens Co, and travel companies such as American Airlines. Dozens of elementary and secondary schools, colleges, and universities were also fined.

Some of the fines were particularly eye-opening. Foster Poultry Farms was fined $450,755 after receiving 5 inspections and being found to have 26 violations. Other hefty fines included Overhill Farms at $217,450 and Jobsource North America at $211,500. Smithfield Foods received a fine of $61,300. Even the San Diego County Sheriff’s department was fined.

Healthcare facilities and farms were also heavily represented in the places that had these violations. Despite vaccine mandates at many of these centers, healthcare facilities have high numbers of exposures and minimal remote work to create a ripe environment for cases and fines. The Kaiser Foundation system was fined in 22 of its locations over $500,000. At the Kaiser Bakersfield location, the inspector went there for a COVID case and found a number of other violations that sent the fine of over $88,000.

According to the data, internal complaints often precipitated the need for inspection. Employees and unions have monitored cases and hospitalizations. They have been found to report violations frequently to regulators, often during times their own companies have not.

California businesses and organizations need to be aware this could only be the beginning.

New COVID variants will come along each 4-6 months. If history is any guide, each new variant will be more contagious and less deadly than the previous ones. Therefore, more total cases could occur over the next several years. Concurrently, individuals are using fewer precautions like masking in personal prevention of COVID. In short, the odds or more outbreaks and worker infections is basically guaranteed over the next several years.

Previously, Cal/OSHA, the regulatory body in California that creates workplace health and safety rules, was using only temporary standards for their COVID workplace safety rules. Recently on February 3, 2023, Cal/OSHA updated these regulations and made them practical for the next three years. Businesses will need to comply or face significant fines. Since Cal/OSHA has already demonstrated they have the inspectors and desire to visit companies and levy fines, as shown by the vast numbers of penalties they have already given.

As more businesses send workers back to the traditional workplace, new issues will challenge employers. Some of these will surround employee retention and convince workers that they need to come to the workplace in person. The burden on California businesses became more complicated with the revelation of these fines from Cal/OSHA on COVID workplace safety and the expectation of future compliance to avoid more penalties.

459 views0 comments


bottom of page