You probably knew it was coming. Now there is official law regarding how California employers must communicate with their employees when they or other colleagues and individuals become ill or have tested positive for COVID-19.
It’s for a good cause: to reduce confusion and eliminate misinformation, and most importantly to preserve good health and even save lives. This new legislation is consistent with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines, and sets statewide standards for how employers must proactively deal with COVID-19 cases in the workplace.
If you’re an employer not based in California, this legislation could serve you well if you face a COVID-19 situation. As well, legislation may be coming your way (a similar bill was already passed in Virginia — see below).
Let’s break it down:
California Governor Gavin Newsom signed this bill into law on September 17, 2020. The legislation states specific occupational safety standards with regard to how employers handle COVID-19-related communications to their employees.
As a result, the authority of California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) has been expanded in order to enforce these new requirements. Included are civil penalties for non-compliance.
If you are an employer in California and violate any of these rules, you could be fined a civil penalty of up to $25,000 per violation.
The law is official beginning on January 1, 2021. It will apply to more than one million businesses operating in the state of California.
Sort of. There were originally guidelines, but they carried no official legal obligations. However, CA AB 685 is an official law, with penalties for non-compliance.
If an employer becomes aware of any potential COVID-19 exposure in the workplace, the following actions must be taken within one business day of the notice of potential exposure:
Note the word “written.” This also includes subcontractors who may have been present on site at the time of the possible infectious period.
Create the written notice this way:
What benefits are your impacted employees entitled to, under federal, state or local laws? Make sure you communicate any relevant information to them. These benefits could include:
Be sure to include information on any employee-entitled anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation protection.
Update all employees — as well as subcontracted employees and their employers — about your plans to disinfect your workspace and the additional safety plans that are being implemented. Be sure that your strategy syncs up with the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) most current guidance for cleaning and disinfecting.
First, be sure that the COVID-19 case meets the exact definition of an outbreak specifically defined by the California Department of Public Health: three or more cases within a 14-day period.
A company representative must notify local public health agencies within 48 hours. If there are further confirmed cases, you must notify your local health department again.
As an employer, you are required to maintain accurate records of all of your written notifications and communications. Keep these on file for at least three years. Store them safely, securely and confidentially, along with any other confidential employee medical information.
Yes. All public and private employers.
The employee has one or more of the following:
California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) now has expanded authority for enforcing this law. It can enforce safety violations through both citations and worksite shutdowns.
A somewhat similar bill in response to COVID-19 workplace situations has been passed in the state of Virginia. Virginia employers must also immediately notify employees who have been or may have been exposed to the virus.
It’s likely that bills may soon be passed in other states. Check here for updates.
The COVID-19 legislation is meant to eliminate confusion, protect public health and ultimately stop the spread of the virus and save lives. Even if you are not a California employer, you can use the information in this blog post to set standards and guidelines for your own business and employees. If the legislation makes its way to your state, implementing these rules by using a multi-channel mass notification system put you ahead of the curve.
See how RedFlag can help you protect what matters most.