AB 1127 or the “Tosco Bill”

AB 1127 or the “Tosco Bill”

In California, in 1999, passage of the landmark legislation AB 1127 (Steinberg) culminated 16 years of efforts to give stronger prosecutorial power to district attorneys to address serious and willful violations of Cal/OSHA regulations which result in worker injuries and deaths. AB 1127 is sometimes referred to as the “Tosco Bill” after two fatal Tosco refinery explosions that killed four workers and galvanized public opinion.

The bill expanded and strengthened Cal/OSHA protections; increased civil and criminal penalties for willful, serious, and repeat violations of occupational safety and health standards; and perhaps most significantly, provided that willful violation of such standards leading to death or permanent or prolonged injury of an employee may be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony.

Cry Wolf Quotes

AB 1127 … would place a powerful hammer in the hands of over-zealous prosecutors to intimidate businesses into pleading to lesser Labor Code violations when threatened with Penal Code prosecution.

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Associated Builders & Contractors Memo to Members of the Public Safety Committee.

AB 1127 would unfairly hold an employer liable for violations of independent contractors over whom they had no control. This is not only unfair, it makes no sense. And, as a result, AB 1127 will discourage employers from hiring independent contractors, who are often small and minority-owned businesses.

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California Chamber of Commerce President, Editorial, Sacramento Business Journal.

Under this measure, accidents will have devastating effects on employers. Encouraging lawsuits is good for attorneys, bad for business, and ultimately, bad for employees.

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Construction Employers Association memo to Assembly Public Safety Committee.

Proponents of the bill never provided any evidence that increasing penalties or allowing more lawsuits would actually reduce injuries or illnesses in the workplace. What is certain is that employers in California will now face far greater penalties for alleged safety and health violations than employers any-where else in the nation. Undoubtedly, this will lead to much greater litigation of Cal/OSHA citations.

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Jeffrey M. Tanenbaum, of Littler Mendelson, P.C.