Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 685 into law, establishing new notice and reporting requirements for employers after becoming aware of a COVID-19 exposure in the workplace. The new law eases the pre-citation requirements that the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) must follow before issuing a citation for a serious violation related to COVID-19.The new law will be effective from Jan. 1, 2021 until Jan. 1, 2023.
Gov. Newsom also signed SB 1159 on Sept. 17, 2020. SB 1159 sets the ground rules for Workers’ Compensation presumptions concerning employees who contract COVID-19 in the workplace. Below, we discuss the different components and requirements of each bill.
Please note that AB 685 does not address Workers’ Compensation; therefore, this bill will have no effect on our clients’ loss reporting process to their insurance carrier.
AB 685 Overview
Effective Jan. 1, 2021 to Jan. 1, 2023, employers are required to take the following action within one business day of a “potential exposure” of COVID-19 in the workplace:
- Provide written notice to all employees and employers of subcontracted employees who were at the worksite of the qualifying individual within the infectious period and may have been exposed to COVID-19;
- Provide written notice to employee representatives, including unions, who may represent employees;
- Provide written notice to employees and/or employee representatives regarding COVID-19-related benefits that employees may receive, including workers’ compensation benefits, COVID-19 leave, paid sick leave, and the company’s anti-retaliation and anti-discrimination policies; and
- Provide notice to employees, the employers of subcontracted employees, and employee representatives regarding the company’s disinfection protocols and safety plan that the company plans to implement and complete to prevent further exposures, per CDC guidelines.
Reporting COVID-19 outbreaks
Employers are required to report prescribed information to the local public health agency in the jurisdiction of the worksite within 48 hours of learning of a COVID-19 outbreak.
This information includes name, number, occupation, and worksite of the qualifying individual, along with the business address and NAICS code of the worksite.
During an outbreak, the employer is required to give notice of any subsequent confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the Worksite.
Cal/OSHA enforcement changes
Cal/OSHA now has the authority to close down a business if it deems there is an “imminent hazard” related to potential COVID-19 transmission. The law does not prescribe a specific level or type of exposure to COVID-19 that may create an imminent hazard and instead leaves that up to Cal/OSHA.
The law also relaxed the notice requirements for serious citations related to COVID-19. Under the new modification, the agency can immediately issue citations for serious violations related to COVID-19 without giving employers a 15-day notice before issuance.