Senator Cortese’s Bill will provide Fast Relief for Heat-injured Farm Workers

With record-breaking temperatures posing a growing threat to the safety of agricultural workers, Senator Dave Cortese introduced Senate Bill (SB) 1299 today to offer swift relief and medical treatment to farm workers and their families affected by heat-related illness and death by ensuring timely compensation and medical treatment in times of need. This move is aimed at protecting our farming workforce by expediting claims and encouraging employers to follow longstanding heat safety regulations.

“As climate change continues to break heat records across California, farm workers need a rapid response for heat-related injuries and illnesses. Their families need support when faced with the worst kind of heat-related tragedy — the death of a loved one and breadwinner,” said Senator Cortese (D-San Jose). “By ensuring timely compensation and medical treatment in times of need, we create a safer environment for our farming workforce.”

Adding urgency to SB 1299 is the growing threat of climate change. Federal researchers have concluded that last year represented the hottest year recorded on Earth. The year before that, in 2022, a scorching heat wave set all-time heat records in several California cities.  

The increased frequency of extreme heat conditions and its growing risks to workers highlight the importance and necessity of California’s existing outdoor heat rules. SB 1299 acknowledges the specific hurdles faced by farm workers in reporting work-related injuries, such as language barriers and fear of employer retaliation.

California law requires that agricultural employers provide shade, hydration access, rest breaks and heat illness prevention training. However, according to a 2023 study from the UC Merced Community and Labor Center, nearly half of farm workers reported that their employers never presented a plan to prevent heat illness as mandated by law. And nearly one in six farm workers said they did not receive the minimum number of rest breaks required by law.

The study also found that extreme heat raises the likelihood of workplace injuries in California by as much as 15 percent. Recovering from a heat-related injury or illness costs an average of $35,000, accounting for health care and lost wages.

Farm workers are 35 times more likely to die from heat exposure than workers in other jobs, according to research by the National Institutes of Health. When people lack adequate hydration and a chance to rest and cool down, extreme heat can lead to nausea, vomiting, and long-term damage to the brain, heart, liver, and kidneys.

Senator Cortese’s legislation is sponsored by the United Farm Workers (UFW) and UFW Foundation. California's current heat regulations were adopted in 2015 after the United Farm Workers and UFW Foundation sued the state of California in 2009 and 2012 for California's failure to enforce the state’s heat illness standards.  

Senator Dave Cortese represents Senate District 15, which encompasses San Jose and much of Santa Clara County in the heart of Silicon Valley. Visit Senator Cortese’s website: