What outdoor workers should know about their rights during extreme heat

A man hides under what little shade was available, Friday, July 14, 2023 in Las Vegas. Nearly a third of Americans were under extreme heat advisories, watches and warnings Friday, including in Las Vegas as a high pressure dome moves west from Texas. (AP Photo/Ty O'Neil)

By Emilia Pablo

August 1, 2023

There are three little words to keep in mind in Las Vegas these days: water, shade, and rest! 

Las Vegas has experienced sweltering heat over the past month, and July was the hottest month in the city’s history. As triple-digit temperature days are to continue this month, outdoors workers must not forget about their rights when it comes to the extreme hot weather. 

In fact, Las Vegas City councilwoman in Ward 3, Olivia Diaz spoke to the Nevadan, reminding construction workers, landscapers, and all other residents that work outdoors about taking a moment to cool off. 

“As I meet with first responders in our community; they share the importance of taking a break to drink water, to stand in a shade for a moment and rest for a few seconds because heat stroke is a reality,” Diaz said.

 She noted that tragedies could be prevented if “we become proactive and not wait until it’s too late.”

What outdoor workers should know about their rights during extreme heat

Diaz also wants to ensure workers know their federal labor rights, and for employers to do their part. 

“Supervisors, owners, and all those in charge at work need to help by executing those labor rights when it comes to the extreme hot weather we are experiencing throughout Nevada,” Diaz added.

What are those federal laws you may ask? They have to do with ensuring workers are paid during their breaks.

While federal law does not require lunch or coffee breaks, when employers do offer short breaks (usually lasting 5-20 minutes), those breaks are considered “compensable work,” under federal law, according to the US Labor Department’s website.

On the other hand, 30-minute lunch breaks are not paid. The US Labor Department’s website states, “meal periods (typically lasting at least 30 minutes), serve a different purpose than coffee or snack breaks and, thus, are not work time and are not compensable.” 

  • Emilia Pablo

    Emilia Pablo Bazan is The Nevadan, El Nevadense Political Correspondent. She is an alumna from U.C. Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism with over 10 years of experience working in the television news industry. She's also a former speechwriter and press officer for the Obama administration and an Emmy award recipient.



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