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California Bill Would Mandate Paid Rest Breaks For Farm Workers

Paid rest breaks would become mandatory for farm workers and other outdoor workers under a bill now in the California Legislature. The measure is an attempt to prevent heat related illnesses.

People who work outdoors are susceptible to dizziness, heat exhaustion and heat stroke, which can be fatal. Labor rights advocates say farm workers are commonly paid based on how much they pick.

“This requires them to work very quickly in order to get a certain amount of vegetables or fruit picked,” says Nicole Marquez with the advocacy group Worksafe. “So there is really no incentive to take a rest break, unless it’s required and paid.”

Under current state law, employers must encourage workers in extreme heat conditions to take frequent rest breaks and to drink water.

But a study conducted in 2007 found that more than 70 percent of farm workers were skipping breaks to avoid losing pay.

SB 1360 will come to the Senate floor in the next few weeks.