Calif. Occupational Safety Agency Fines Two Adult Film Companies for Allowing Actors To Perform Unprotected Sex Acts
The Cal/OSHA program in the Division of Occupational Safety and Health at the California Department of Industrial Relations on Wednesday fined two Los Angeles-area adult film companies $30,560 each for allegedly allowing actors to perform unprotected sex, the Los Angeles Times reports. Cal/OSHA filed citations against Evasive Angles and TTB Productions, both located in Van Nuys, Calif., and owned by Phillip Rivera. The fines mark the first time the agency has taken regulatory action against the adult film industry. The citations come six months after an "HIV outbreak" in the pornographic film industry, according to the Times (Liu/Malnic, Los Angeles Times, 9/17). Five adult film actors tested HIV-positive in April and May, and four of the cases were found to be linked. Following the detection of the first two cases, more than 50 performers who were thought to have had unprotected sex with one of the HIV-positive actors or one of their onscreen partners agreed to a voluntary work quarantine. About 12 companies then agreed to a production moratorium until HIV testing of the actors was completed, according to industry experts. Following the outbreak, several state legislators have suggested implementing measures that would require adult film companies to take certain steps to avoid HIV transmission among actors (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 8/20).
Cal/OSHA issued the citations after a months-long investigation initiated after an unnamed pornography industry worker filed a complaint with the department, the Times reports. The investigation allegedly revealed that the two companies violated the state's bloodborne pathogen standard, which requires employers to protect employees who might be exposed to blood or other bodily fluids while on the job. "What this means is that any employer whose workers are exposed to any potentially infectious material, such as semen or vaginal fluids, must follow state regulations covering workplaces," Cal/OSHA spokesperson Susan Gard said, adding, "Any bodily fluid is considered infectious. That means barrier equipment must be used." The citations also say that the companies violated state law by failing to notify authorities of actors who contracted HIV through work-related activities. In addition, the citations allege that the companies' producers did not provide a written injury prevention program and failed to report a workplace accident to Cal/OSHA within eight hours of the incident, as is required by law. However, because the state agency has regulatory authority over employees but not contractors, Cal/OSHA may not be able to regulate all adult film actors because many of them are paid by the scene and change employers daily, according to Jeffrey Douglas, an adult film industry lawyer and chair of the Free Speech Coalition, an industry trade group.
Cal/OSHA officials have been conducting an ongoing investigation of the adult film industry to determine whether it complies with state health and employee safety laws, according to the Times (Los Angeles Times, 9/17). The county health department in April filed a complaint with Cal/OSHA requesting a formal investigation. Cal/OSHA has six months to complete the investigation, which will be confidential, Gard said. Production companies could be fined up to $25,000 per incident if the agency finds the companies exposed employees to serious health risks. The county ultimately is seeking enforcement of workplace regulations that would require adult film actors to wear condoms. State and county health officials have said they believe existing regulations give them the authority to require adult film actors to use condoms during filming. Regulations that require employers to have written policies on reducing workplace hazards and require the use of universal precautions for workers who might come into contact with bloodborne pathogens could be used to enforce the condom policy (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/22).
'Struggle' for Compliance
Gaining compliance to agency regulations in the adult film industry has been a "struggle," the Times reports. According to industry regulators and managers, the "vast majority" of the approximately 200 pornography companies in the Los Angeles area "eschew" safe sex guidelines in their films, the Times reports. Only about 17% of adult film actors use condoms on a regular basis, according to the Adult Industry Medical Health Care Foundation. Many actors also say that film producers will not hire them if they "insist" on adhering to safe sex practices while on the job because it is a "widely held belief" among producers that portraying condom use would lower profits, according to the Times. Tony Tedeschi, an adult film actor who has been in the industry for 15 years, said he would not have gotten work if he had insisted on condom use. Cal/OSHA has posted pornography industry regulations on its Web site and has included instructions on how to file a complaint, according to the Times.
Industry reaction to the Cal/OSHA citations was "mixed," the Times reports. Douglas questioned whether Cal/OSHA would be able to change and regulate filming practices. "It doesn't matter what Cal/OSHA wants," Douglas said, adding, "It's a matter of Cal/OSHA's authority." However, Tedeschi "applauded" the agency's move, the Times reports. "I think it's about time the government addressed work safety issues that have been a problem for a long time," he said, adding, "It's a good thing to see the government doing something." Although actor Brandon Iron "welcomed" Cal/OSHA's efforts, he "doubted they would make a difference," the Times reports. "I'm not sure it's enough of a deterrent to other companies to change the way business is done," Iron said (Los Angeles Times, 9/17).