The federal OSH Act preempts state law on the subject of workplace safety, but then allows a state to opt out by submitting a state plan which shows that the state standards are at least as protective of workers as federal law and which provides for an effective means of enforcement. California submitted a plan which leaves enforcement to Cal/OSHA. This decision holds that the federal OSH Act does not preempt California law to the extent it allows a district attorney to bring a UCL action based on the defendant’s unlawful practice of failing to meet CalOSHA workplace safety standards even though the state plan did not provide for enforcement by that means. The federal OSH Act does not expressly preempt state law in this instance, but rather indicates a federal concern with too lenient state standards and too lax state enforcement, not higher state standards and more aggressive state enforcement. Furthermore, a UCL action does not enforce CalOSHA standards even when they form the predicate law for an unlawful business practice. Rather, the UCL sets its own remedial scheme which poses no obstacle to the federal OSH Act and presumptively escapes its preemptive force as a law of general application.
California Supreme Court (Cantil-Sakauye, J.); February 8, 2018; 2018 WL 771814.