Important California Laws To Know – AB 685 And AB 1867
As the coronavirus pandemic emerged in the spring of 2020, employers throughout California and the nation pondered what course of action, if any, they were required to take once they receive notice that one of their employees was infected with or exposed to COVID-19. AB 685 attempts to solve this dilemma by delineating a California employer’s obligations. To facilitate this, the Act augments the power of the California Division of Occupational Health and Safety to enforce health and safety standards to prevent workplace exposure to and spread of COVID-19. AB 685 remains in effect until January 1, 2023.
AB 685 provides that, if an employer receives a notice of “potential exposure to COVID-19,” the employer must take certain actions now required by law. These employer obligations are triggered when they receive notice about a “qualifying individual” who is an employee or a subcontractor’s onsite employee. This notice may be from a public health official or via the results of a test.
The employer must provide a notice in writing within one business day to:
(1) all employees, as well as the employer(s) of subcontracted employees, who were at the same worksite as the “qualifying individual” within the infectious period, which is currently defined by the California Health Department as ten (10) days, and who may have been exposed to COVID-19, and
(2) the union(s) that represents the employees. The notice also must inform these parties of the disinfection and safety plan that the employer plans to carry out in accordance with CDC guidelines and provide the employees (and their union, if any) information regarding the COVID-19-related benefits to which they may be entitled under applicable laws.
Employers must give this written notice in the same manner in which the employer normally communicates employment-related information to employees., As long as the notice can reasonably be anticipated to be received by the employee within one business day after the employer transmits it by personal delivery, email, or text message, the notice may be distributed by any means.
The written notice must be in both English and the language understood by the majority of employees. The notice to employees must not disclose the identity of the qualifying individual to preserve employee privacy. However, the written notice sent to any unions must include the same information required in an incident report in a Cal/OSHA Form 300 log, which includes the employee’s name. Employers are required to keep records of the written notice for a minimum of three years.
A “qualifying individual” is a person who has a laboratory-confirmed case of COVID-19 or a positive COVID-19 diagnosis from a licensed health care provider. A “qualifying individual” may also be someone who has been ordered to isolate by a public health official due to COVID-19, or died due to COVID-19.
AB 685 also imposes obligations to report a COVID-19 “outbreak,” which it defines “as three or more laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 among employees who live in different households within a two-week period.” If this occurs, within 48 hours of learning this information, the employer must notify the local public health agency of the names, number, occupation, and worksite of the employees who are the qualifying individuals, the employer’s business address, and the NAICS code of the worksite. An employer that has an outbreak subject to these provisions must continue to give notice to the local health department of any subsequent laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the worksite.
AB 685, to allow the public to track COVID-19 outbreaks, requires the California Health Department to make certain information on outbreaks publicly available. Local public health departments and Cal/OSHA must also provide a link to this page on their websites.
Under AB 1867, all private employers with 500 or more employees must provide COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave (“SPSL”) for their California employees who must leave their home to perform work for a covered employer if they are unable to work due to any of the following circumstances:
(1) the covered worker is subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;
(2) the covered worker is advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine or self-isolate due to concerns related to COVID-19; or
(3) the covered worker is prohibited from working by the covered worker’s hiring entity due to health concerns related to the potential transmission of COVID-19.
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