In 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom of California signed multiple laws affecting employers in California. The new California labor laws, some of which were signed into law only weeks ago, cover various issues, including sick leave, job classification, job leave, benefits for jobs, implementation of safety rules, salaries, and unemployment insurance.
All California-based employers should be aware of these new laws, consider how these laws will impact their practices, and work with attorneys to resolve any enforcement issues. In Assembly Bill (AB) or Senate Bill (SB), each new legislation's effective date is indicated.1.
AB 685 (Effective Jan. 1, 2021)
Note Commitments for COVID-19 Occupational Exposures and Cal / OSHA Compliance Adjustments
In the event of a COVID-19 virus positive test results in the workplace, AB 685 prescribes notification standards for employees, strengthens reporting requirements to local health authorities in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak, and extends the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal / OSHA) authority to shut down work sites considered to be an "imminent danger" due to COVID-19 and issue "significant breach."
Under AB 685, California employers who are informed of possible exposure to COVID-19 must, within one business day, do the following:
Provide written notice during the infectious timeframe that they might have been exposed to COVID-19 to all employees and employers of subcontracted employees on the premises at the same worksite as the "qualifying individual "2.
Provide written notice, if any, to the exclusive representative (union) of the above workers.
Provide details about COVID-19-related benefits to which they may be entitled, including but not limited to worker compensation, COVID-19-related leave, and paid sick leave, as well as the anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation policies of the employer, to all workers who may have been exposed and their sole representative, if any.
Provide notice of the disinfection and safety plan that the employer plans to enforce and complete, according to CDC guidelines, to all workers, the employers of subcontracted workers, and the exclusive delegate, if any.
The written notice given to employees can include, but is not limited to, a personal service, email, or text message, provided that it can reasonably be expected to be obtained by the employee within one business day of dispatch and is understood by the majority of the employees in both English and the language.
As established by the CA Department of Public Health, AB 685 also imposes reporting requirements on employers notified of a COVID-19 outbreak. Employers must inform the local public health department in the jurisdiction of the worksite, within 48 hours of learning of the outbreak, of the names, number, occupation, and worksite of qualified individuals, as well as the business address of the employer and the NAICS code of the worksite where the qualified individuals worked. After disclosing an outbreak, the employer must continue to give notice of any subsequent laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the worksite to the local health department.
The new law also adds a provision to the Labor Code that explicitly specifies that Cal / OSHA can shut down or ban operations at a worksite when a worksite or activity "exposes staff to the risk of infection" of COVID-19 in the opinion of Cal / OSHA in order to constitute an imminent threat. Furthermore, it removes the obligation that Cal / OSHA sends its Notice of Intent (1BY) to the employer to issue a "serious breach" citation for hazards associated with COVID-19. This means that before a summons can be given, employers don't have a "15-day window" anymore to respond to the notice with proof to support their defense. On Jan. 1, 2023, this clause of the bill will expire.
This bill amends the Labor Code, sections 6325