The Business Dictionary online defines workplace as the location at which an employee provides work for an employer. The workplace can be located in a variety of settings including offices, manufacturing facilities or factories, stores, farms, out-of-doors, or in any other location where work is performed. Every physical workplace in the US is subject to workplace health and safety regulations and other guidelines provided by the US Department of Labor (DOL). Workplace safety audits examine issues like workers compensation, environmental safety, breaks and lunch requirements, leave requirements, equal employment opportunity, and unemployment compensation.
With the proliferation of electronic communication, all workplaces are not physical locations at which employees work. Home offices, telecommuting arrangements, and worldwide employment relationships mean that almost any location, including the employee’s home, may serve as and accurately be called a workplace.
Under these confusing circumstances, Assembly Member Jeff Gorell sought an opinion from California’s Attorney General on the question of circumstances under which an owner-operated business with no additional employees could be construed to offer a ‘place of employment’. Apparently, the aim was to ascertain whether a law prohibiting smoking at the workplace can be applied to a business which has no employees other than the owner.
The Attorney General clarified that even an owner-operated business which has no employees constitutes a ‘place of employment’ when employment of any kind is carried on by persons who are employed by someone other than the business owner. Simply put, occupational health and safety regulations apply to any location in which individuals are conducting work for hire (i.e., are being paid to do the work). In these situations, both the actual employer of record, and the company or individual who owns the work location, and jointly responsible for creating a safety workplace to those employees. So, carrying on a business or work activities at a place automatically extends the status of a ‘place of employment’ to the location, rather than who employs the workers. This redefinition takes into account the contemporary developments in the job market and wisely redefines the term, ‘place of employment’; to include every place of business which is set for ‘direct or indirect profit’.
While this clarifies some of the issues surrounding the notion of a workplace, legislation has not always kept pace with changing work environments. On this blog site, we have always held that the phenomenal growth of the contingent workforce industry is bound to impact the legislative environment surrounding us; and we have committed ourselves to bring you updates on developments affecting the use of extended workforces. Businesses must note that this definition of a workplace only reinforces the need to ensure that protection is afforded to all workers – even those not on your payroll.
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