California Authorities Uphold Mandatory Condoms for Porn

California Authorities Uphold Mandatory Condoms for PornEXPAND
File photo by Star Foreman/L.A. Weekly

Condoms are explicitly required for porn production in Los Angeles County. Your vote in 2012 made it so. The L.A.-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation is working on a ballot initiative that would make condoms the law for porn stars statewide.

Until then, those concerned about adult performers catching STDs at work can always appeal to California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA), which will investigate porn shoots on a complaint-by-complaint basis.

Cal/OSHA has made it clear state investigators believe that California and federal law says employees shouldn't be exposed to sperm at work. 

A Cal/OSHA appeals board recently upheld this interpretation, that workers should not be exposed to bloodborne pathogens, in a case involving a gay "bareback" video shoot by Bay Area company Treasure Island Media.

The board also ruled that performers should be seen as employees under the law. The adult industry in the past has argued that the bloodborne pathogen standard, first designed for medical workers, doesn't apply to porn stars, who are almost always shoot-by-shoot freelancers.

"Not only did OSHA uphold the safety violations that are the heart of this complaint, the Appeals Board also made it abundantly clear in this ruling that OSHA section 5193 of the Bloodborne Pathogens statute does, in fact, apply to the adult film industry despite the industry’s years-long protestations otherwise," said Michael Weinstein, president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. "In addition, this OSHA Appeals Board ruling unequivocally states that the adult film performers are employees, not independent contractors, as the industry regularly asserts, and as such are covered under OSHA workplace safety statutes."

The ruling this month ended a six-year state investigation into the Treasure Island shoot.

Diane Duke, CEO of porn industry trade group the Free Speech Coalition, said the final reduced fine of $685 amounted to "the same fine that a company might get for not having a fully stocked first aid kit."

"The panel ruled the lack of condoms was only a minor infraction," Treasure Island said in a statement. The company called the decision, which reduced the fine from $18,000, "a game changer for the adult industry, and a sharp rebuke of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which brought the complaint."

California Authorities Uphold Mandatory Condoms for PornEXPAND
File photo of an adult video shoot by Star Foreman/L.A. Weekly

If porn producers are going to be hit with occasional $685 fines for lacking condoms, they'll probably chalk them up to the cost of doing business.

The adult video industry has long been based in California, one of few states where exchanging money for sex in the presence of cameras is legal.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation argues that, because the Treasure Island case stemmed from a 2009 shoot, the state appeals board relied on an older, less-strict standard for exposure to bloodborne pathogens. As such, the group claims, producers got off easy.

"The ... judging standard in effect today only requires evidence of exposure ... to be considered a 'serious' violation, and is the standard going forward for all complaints," AHF states.

Still, Treasure Island described the ruling as a "triumph."

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