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Workers at multiple Jacksonville stores report no air conditioning, sweltering conditions

While there are no federal laws regulating workplace temperatures, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration does have standards for safe working conditions.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — First Coast News has received multiple viewer tips about broken air conditioning units at some local fast food restaurants and clothing stores. First Coast news is On Your Side explaining what you should do if you feel your workplace is so hot that it is unsafe. 

When Valeria Barnes took her 16-year-old son to an interview at a Church’s Chicken on Normandy Blvd, she didn’t expect for the store to feel like a sauna.

“Very hot, it got so hot that I had to leave out because I felt like I was going to pass out," Barnes said.

Barnes says she went with her son in May to apply for a job at Church’s Chicken, but afterward he didn’t take the job because of the restaurant didn't have working air conditioning. 

First Coast News went inside in July and it was noticeably hot.

“Nobody should be working in that type of environment with the temperature like it is outside as well. There are days that I went there, and the outside was cooler," Barnes said.

A portable AC unit and a fan were added to the store for the workers and the store’s manager says a new AC is coming.

First Coast News did reach out to Church’s Chicken press line asking when the AC will be fixed and what protections are being made for employees in the meantime, but did not receive a response.

It’s the second tip about a store with no working air conditioner. A TJ MAXX in Mandarin also had no AC, with multiple portable units placed throughout the store. Management there said they are working on a repair.

While there are no federal laws regulating workplace temperatures, an attorney with Jacksonville Area Legal Aid says the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does have protections for hazardous working conditions.

“It has to be non-hazardous it can not create a serious health condition on the part of the employee. So therefore that’s why the employee should call and file a complaint," said Edith Jones, an attorney with the Jacksonville Area Legal Aid.

"When there's a situation where an employee feels that he or she may be in an unhealthy situation, particularly with no AC, that would mean that that employee would have the right to call the OSHA hotline and file what's called a complaint with the OSHA office to see if they can get someone to come out and do an investigation," said Jones.

During the inspection, investigators will determine if the conditions have caused or could lead to any heat-related illness or injuries. If so, the employer could face a citation.

Barnes says she called Church’s Chicken corporate office asking for a solution.

“It’s to the point that I even come and check on the staff and tell them I’m not giving up, I’m going to find y’all some help," Barnes said.

OSHA does have a heat index app you can download right on your phone and it will give you a temperature and whether the conditions are safe for working.

You can follow this link to file a complaint with OSHA.

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