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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Cortez v. Abich: Residential Demolition and Remodeling Project is "Employment" Under Cal-OSHA

This is not a wage and hour case, but it is worth noting. In Cortez v. Abich (January 24, 2011) --- Cal.4th ----, 2011 WL 198105, the California Supreme Court considered whether a home demolition and remodeling project is subject to the California Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1973 (Cal-OSHA). The Court held that it is.

Under the California Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1973 (Cal-OSHA or the Act) (Lab.Code, § 6300 et seq.; all further unlabeled statutory references are to this code), employers are required to “furnish employment and a place of employment that is safe and healthful” for their employees. (§ 6400, subd. (a).) For purposes of the Act, “employment” is defined as “the carrying on of any trade, enterprise, project, industry, business, occupation, or work, including all excavation, demolition, and construction work, or any process or operation in any way related thereto, in which any person is engaged or permitted to work for hire, except household domestic service.” (§ 6303, subd. (b), italics added.)

The narrow question before us is this: Does work rendered on a residential remodeling project in which significant portions of a house are demolished and rebuilt, and new rooms are added, fall within the statutory “household domestic service” provision for employment excluded under the Act? Based on the plain meaning of the statutory language, we conclude the answer is no.

Slip op. at 1.

The opinion is available here.

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