Important Covid Laws
Effective January 1, 2021, there will be new Covid-19 reporting requirements for California employers.
Under AB 685, employers are required to notify in writing the employees, the employee’s representatives, and the employers of subcontracted employees within one business day of receiving communication that there was a potential workplace exposure to COVID-19. Employers, however, do not need to inform ALL employees of potential exposure. The employers are only required to inform the above-mentioned individuals who were at the same worksite as the individual who may have been infected within the infectious period. Employers are also required to notify these individuals of benefits to which they may be entitled, including, workers’ compensation, assorted forms of sick leave available, and anti-discrimination and retaliation protections. Employers must also apprise these individuals of the Employer’s implementation of safety plans which align with the CDC Guidelines. Employers must notify public health officials within 48 hours if there are three or more laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 within a two-week period among employees who live in different households. Employers are not allowed to disclose employee medical information unless it is otherwise required by law. Employers must maintain records of the written notices it provides to these individuals for at least three years.
Workers Compensation as it Relates to Covid-19 Sickness
Earlier this year, Governor Newsome implemented an executive order that addresses workers compensation as it relates to COVID-19 sickness. The newly enacted SB 1159 says that an employee who contracts COVID-19 within 14 days of working outside of the home is presumed to have become infected at the workplace. Therefore, that infected individual’s medical as well as other related costs are compensable under worker’s compensation. SB1159 also creates additional worker’s compensation protections to some workers through January 1, 2023.
After July 5, 2020 certain COVID-19 infected front-line workers, such as police officers, paramedics, and others who provide direct patient care, there is a disputable presumption that the illness arose out of and in the course of their employment. This pertains to individuals who test positive for COVID-19 within 14 days of performing services in that employee’s place of business. As such, workers’ compensation would cover the infected persons medical and related costs including hospitalization, surgery, and even death benefits.
There are also certain protections afforded other employees who are not “front-line” workers.
Generally, where an employer has 5 or more employees, and an employee tests positive for COVID-19, there is a disputable presumption that the illness arose out of and in the course of employment and is therefore covered by workers’ compensation. As such, they are afforded the same benefits as mentioned above regarding “front-line” workers .
An OUTBREAK exists if either:
(1) the employer has 100 or fewer employees at a specific place of employment, and 4 employees test positive for COVID-19,
(2) or the employer has more than 100 employees at a specific place of employment and 4 percent of the number of employees who reported to the specific place of employment test positive for COVID-19 during a continuous 14-day period.
SB 1159 also provides reporting requirements to the employer’s workers compensation claims administrator when the employer knows or reasonably should know that an employee has tested positive for COVID-19.