California Employers – Know Your COVID-19 Obligations

Employers in California have new reporting obligations related to employee COVID-19 cases under California legislation AB 685. The purpose of AB 685 is to allow the state to more closely track COVID-19 cases in the workplace.

The new law goes into effect for California employees on January 1, 2021 and requires employers to provide written notice to all employees who worked at their worksite during an infectious period who may have had exposure to the virus. It also enhances the reporting requirements to local health authorities in the event there is an outbreak of COVID-19 at your worksite.

Required Notice to Employees and Employee Representatives

Under the new notice requirement, employers in California are required to take action within one business day of a “potential exposure” based on a positive diagnosis of COVID-19 by someone at the worksite. The notice must be provided in writing to all employees and any subcontractors who were at the worksite during the infectious period and may have potentially been exposed to COVID-19.  Written notice should also be provided to any employee representatives such as union representatives or attorneys.

The notice can be delivered in person or distributed via email or text message if the employee is anticipated to see the notification within one business day. The notice should be both in English and any other language that is understood by the majority of your employees.

Notices should include information related to any COVID-19 related benefits such as workers’ compensation benefits, COVID leave of absence such as that provided under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), paid sick leave, etc. You should also include the company’s anti-discrimination, anti-harassment, and anti-retaliation policies. In addition, the notice should include details regarding the company’s protocols for disinfecting the worksite and the safety plan to prevent any further exposures per CDC guidelines.

 Required Reporting of a COVID-19 Outbreak at Your Worksite

If you have multiple COVID-19 positive cases at your worksite, you may be subject to new reporting requirements related to outbreaks at the worksite. Local public health authorities determine the number of positive COVID-19 cases are considered an outbreak. Upon learning of the outbreak, employers are required to report the required information to their local public health agency within 48 hours.

In the event of a COVID-19 related fatality, California employers are required to notify their local health department of the name, number, occupation, and worksite location of any employees who have died due to COVID-19 exposure.

Employers are encouraged to create an action plan for their company and worksites related to COVID-19. You should identify the risks of COVID-19 exposure at your worksite(s) and decide how you will act to prevent exposure (looking at things such as improved ventilation, providing personal protective equipment such as masks or face shields, requiring social distancing when possible, etc).