COVID-19 Prevention Non-Emergency Regulations
to Protect Workers from COVID-19 in Effect

Sacramento—The COVID-19 Prevention Non-Emergency Regulations requiring employers to protect workers from hazards related to COVID-19 are now in effect, following their approval on February 3rd by the Office of Administrative Law. The new regulations will remain in effect through February 3, 2025, with recordkeeping requirements in effect through February 3, 2026.

COVID workplace measures: Employers may address COVID-19 workplace measures within their written Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) or in a separate document. Employers must maintain an effective written Injury and Illness Prevention Program that addresses COVID-19 as a workplace hazard and includes measures to prevent workplace transmission, employee training, and methods for responding to COVID-19 cases at the workplace. Employers are legally obligated to provide and maintain a safe and healthful workplace for employees, including the prevention of COVID-19 exposure.

  • Close Contact Definition: Close contact is determined by looking at the size of the workplace, as set forth in the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) State Public Health Officer Order.
    • For indoor spaces of 400,000 or fewer cubic feet per floor, close contact is defined as sharing the same indoor airspace as a COVID-19 case for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period during the COVID-19 case’s infectious period as defined by this section, regardless of the use of face coverings.
    • For indoor spaces of greater than 400,000 cubic feet per floor, close contact is defined as being within six feet of the COVID-19 case for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period during the COVID-19 case’s infectious period, as defined by this section, regardless of the use of face coverings.
    • Offices, suites, rooms, waiting areas, break or eating areas, bathrooms, or other spaces that are separated by floor-to-ceiling walls shall be considered distinct indoor spaces.
  • Infectious Period Definition: Infectious period is defined by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) State Public Health Officer Order.
  • COVID Testing:  Employers must make COVID-19 testing available at no cost and during employees’ paid time, regardless of vaccination status to all employees of the employer who have had close contact in the workplace and who are not returned cases.
  • Ventilation: For indoor locations, employers must review applicable CDPH guidance and implement effective measures to prevent transmission through improved filtration and/or ventilation.

Cal/OSHA is updating its resources to assist employers with understanding their obligations required by the COVID-19 Prevention Regulations. The COVID-19 Prevention Resources webpage contains a fact sheet that describes the regulations, FAQs and an updated model program. Website

Meal Breaks Generally Depend on
Actual Number of Hours Worked

Are meal break requirements determined by the total length of an employee’s shift, or by the number of hours the employee actually works?

Meal break requirements in California are determined by the number of hours an employee actually works each day. The length of the employee’s assigned shift may be longer than the number of hours actually worked in a few situations.

Basic Meal Break Requirements

First, let’s take a look at the basic meal break requirements for nonexempt employees in California:

  • An employee who works more than five hours is required to take to an unpaid meal break of at least 30 minutes. The employer and employee can mutually agree to waive the meal break so long as the employee works no more than six hours.
  • A second 30-minute meal break is required if the employee works more than 10 hours. However, that second meal break may be waived by mutual consent so long as the employee works no more than 12 hours and as long as the first meal break of the day was actually taken.

Shift Length vs. Hours Worked

Confusion over meal break requirements can arise when comparing shift length to hours worked. When calculating hours worked, we look at the total shift length and subtract out any unpaid meal periods or other time off.

Consider the following example:

Joe is scheduled to work from 8 a.m. to 6:15 p.m., which is 10 hours and 15 minutes. Because Joe is scheduled for more than six hours, he of course must take at least one 30-minute meal break. But since Joe’s shift is 10 hours and 15 minutes long, is he then entitled to a second meal break? The answer is no; since Joe actually worked only nine hours and 45 minutes because he took a 30-minute meal break.

The law looks to how many hours the employee actually worked, not the total number of hours of the assigned shift. It’s important to remember though that all required 10-minute rest breaks do count as time worked for calculating meal break requirements, even though employees are not working during their rest breaks.

Another situation that sometimes causes confusion is where an employee takes time off during the day, such as for a medical appointment, and uses paid leave time:

Jane regularly works an eight-hour day from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and normally takes a half-hour lunch around noon. If Jane was planning to leave work at noon for a medical procedure and use sick leave for the rest of the day, she would not be entitled to a meal break because she would be working less than five hours. Although Jane would be paid eight hours for the day (four hours worked plus four hours of sick leave) she would not actually work enough hours to trigger the meal break requirement.

It’s important to note that there are exceptions to these general meal break requirements in certain industries, such as health care and construction, as well as under some collective bargaining agreements.

Ellen Savage, CalChamber HRWatchdog

How to End Bad Meetings Diplomatically

When was the last time you attended a meeting that was A) pointless, B) boring, C) frustrating, or D) all of the above? How many of these meetings have you attended in your lifetime? Stories of wasteful meetings are legion. Unfortunately, some meetings have no viable leader. As an attendee, what can you do to create a semblance of order out of chaos? Here are some proven steps and strategies. 

Help Set the Tone Upfront

A healthy step you can take at the outset of a meeting is to make a comment like this: “I’m eager to learn what others have to share.” This gesture discourages a common source of meeting derangement: attendee ego. Humility goes a long way toward improving a meeting’s return on investment.

This opening statement also helps focus the discussion on what’s important. Essentially, you’re signaling a behavior that is not widespread in most meetings, which is learning rather than teaching. 

Restrain the Tendency to Opine

One of my favorite pieces of advice is to solicit others’ opinions before expressing your own. Doing so allows you to refine your own thinking as you process what others are saying. It also creates a more receptive environment for what you decide to share.

Best of all, this approach may eliminate the need for you to express an opinion at all. “I think Sarah has a great idea!” (Refrain from adding, “Of course, I’d already thought of this myself.”) 

Interrupt Strategically

A common meeting nemesis is the person who has lots of opinions and loves taking the time to share them. Without creating undue tension, you can check this person’s tendencies with strategic interruption. “Jim, let me stop you for a second. I have a question. I want to make sure I understand you. Are you recommending XYZ? OK, thanks, Jim. What do others think?”

This approach takes the edge off the interruption by using the person’s name and by confirming that you’re actively listening to them.

Another variation: “Jim, let me stop you for a second. I have a question. It sounds like you’re addressing Topic Z. Is that right? I’m wondering if it might make more sense if we first discussed Topic Y. OK with you?”

Strategic, active-listening-based interruptions can prevent endless forays down rabbit holes. They can also tease out the wisdom of your introverts, which might otherwise be lost. 

Facilitate Progress

A common cause of meeting failure is a lack of clarity about present understandings and expected future action. If the meeting leader isn’t doing their job, or if there is no leader, you can help.

Whenever you think an understanding has been reached, interject. “Hey folks, from what I’m hearing, it sounds like we’ve agreed to the following … Is that right? Great. What are the next steps?”

In this way, you’re using a gentle yet firm hand to control things. In my experience, the other attendees will support your effort because it’s in their best interest too. 

Resolve Conflicts

Have you experienced meeting derailment when two or more people square off with each other? The rest of the room looks on as train-wreck bystanders. If you find yourself in this predicament, try assertive, active listening.                          

“Excuse me, Jill and Ben. For the sake of the rest of us, I want to make sure I understand exactly what the dispute is about. Please let me know if the following summary of your positions is accurate.”

Without overtly trying to control Jill and Ben, you’re essentially doing just that, but in a way that lowers the room temperature and creates a path past the dispute. 

Close the Meeting

It’s always good at the end of a meeting to do a verbal recap of key takeaways, accompanied by an expression of thanks. “Hey folks, before we wrap up, let me make sure I understand what I think are the key points of today’s meeting. … Is that right? Great. Thanks, everyone. I learned a lot.” 

Use the Same Day Summary

As I’ve previously described, the Same Day Summary serves as the written version of those key takeaways. “Hey, everyone. I know my memory isn’t perfect. To make sure we stay on the same page, I’ll put a short e-mail together with what I think are the key points and send it to everyone. You can correct any mistakes I make. OK?” 

A Last, Modest Proposal

How many meetings have you attended that didn’t need to happen? At the end of the gathering, when everyone automatically assumes there will be another meeting, try saying something like, “Hey folks, before we schedule next Monday’s meeting, I have a question. It sounds like at least a couple weeks of research and development are needed on what we covered. How about we meet the third Monday instead?”

That’s the macro strategy. There’s also the micro strategy: “Hey folks, it sounds like you’ve got things under control and my presence won’t be needed for the next meeting. Of course, if that changes, please let me know.”

The next time you find yourself in a meeting where your Spidey Sense says, “Uh-oh! Here we go again,” pull out this column. I can’t predict perfect order, but I bet there’ll be less chaos. 

Jathan Janove, J.D., SHRM