Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 685, a new law establishing stringent COVID-19-related notice and reporting requirements for public and private employers.
It also boosts the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health’s (Cal/OSHA) COVID-19 enforcement authority.
The new law takes effect January 1, 2021, but employers should quickly become aware of its complicated requirements in order to ensure compliance in January.
If an employer receives notice of a “potential exposure to COVID-19,” the employer must, within one business day, take the following actions.
- The employer must provide written notice to all employees (and their exclusive representative, if any) and the employers of subcontracted employees, who were on the premises at the same worksite as the “qualifying individual within the infectious period,” that they may have been exposed to COVID-19. Written notice may be provided in person, email, text message or other form of communications the employer normally uses if it can reasonably be anticipated that the employee will receive it within one business day. Additionally, the notice must be in both English and any language understood by the majority of employees. The new law also requires that the notice to any exclusive representative must contain the same information required in Cal/OSHA’s Form 300, Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses, unless the information is inapplicable or unknown to the employer.
- The employer must provide “all employees who may have been exposed” (and their exclusive representative, if any) with information regarding COVID-19-related benefits to which they may be entitled under federal, state or local laws, including, but not limited to, workers’ compensation, COVID-19-related leave, company sick leave, state-mandated leave, supplemental sick leave or negotiated leave provisions, as well as anti-retaliation and anti-discrimination employee protections.
- The employer must notify all employees (and their exclusive representative, if any) of the disinfection and safety plan that the employer plans to implement per the guidelines of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Employers should note that the new law uses three different phrases, in quotes above, to describe employees to whom notices must be given.
These notice requirements are triggered when an employer receives “notice of a potential exposure to COVID-19,” which the law defines as notification:
- From a public health official or licensed medical provider that an employee was exposed to a “qualifying individual” at the worksite;
- From an employee or their emergency contact that the employee is a “qualifying individual;”
- Through the testing protocol of the employer that the employee is a “qualifying individual;” or
- From a subcontracted employee that a “qualifying individual” was on the worksite.
In addition to the notice requirements above, AB 685 requires employers to notify their local public health agency within 48 hours of a COVID-19 “outbreak,” as defined by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).
Employers should note that the definition of “outbreak” under this law differs from the definition under SB 1159, which is related to workers’ compensation.
Because the new law specifies very detailed notice requirements with very little time to provide them, employers should become familiar with them quickly.
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