With a robust economy and deep pool of talent and human capital, California continues to attract business from around the world. Employers undoubtedly benefit greatly from having operations in the Golden State, but also must grapple with an ever-changing web of rules and regulations applicable to their employment relationships. In this month’s column, we discuss several statutes enacted by the California legislature in the past couple of years that employers should consider if they wish to comply with California law and avoid unexpected and often expensive employment law claims.
Infection Prevention Requirements
Effective Jan. 1, 2021, AB 685 added California Labor Code §6409.6 which requires employers to notify employees of potential COVID-19 exposures in the workplace. If an employer or its representative receives notice of “potential exposure to COVID-19,” then within one business day the employer must provide written notice to all employees (and employers of subcontracted employees) who were present at the same worksite as the individual reported to the employer as having had COVID-19 (as determined by a laboratory test, licensed health care provider, or public health official) during the infectious period. Section 6409.6 defers to the California Department of Public Health’s (CDPH) definition of “infectious period,” which begins for symptomatic individuals two days prior to the development of symptoms and ends when all of the following conditions have been met: (1) 10 days have elapsed since symptoms first appeared, (2) 24 hours have passed with no fever and no use of fever reducing medications, and (3) other symptoms have improved. For asymptomatic individuals who test positive, the infectious period begins two days prior to, and ends 10 days after, the employee provided the test specimen. Employer Guidance on AB 685 Definitions, Cal. Dep’t of Pub. Health (Oct. 16, 2020). Employers must provide notice written in a language understood by the majority of employees and in a manner the employer normally communicates employment-related information, such as email, personal service, or text message. The notice must inform employees of their potential exposure to COVID-19 and any disinfection or safety plan the employer plans to implement per the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as provide information regarding COVID-19-related benefits to which the employee may be entitled under federal, state, or local laws, including but not limited to, workers’ compensation, leave set forth by statute, leave provided to employees pursuant to the employer’s policies or practices, as well as anti-retaliation and anti-discrimination protections of the employee.