New laws protect California workers during this pandemic

IN continuing efforts to protect workers and their families from COVID-19, California recently enacted the following legislation:

Notice to employees of potential exposure and report of outbreaks
Assembly Bill 685 requires employers who were notified of potential exposure to COVID-19 to notify all employees who were on the premises at the same worksite as the infected individual, that they may have been exposed to COVID-19. The employer is then required to provide certain information regarding COVID-19-related benefits and options. The employer must also disclose its disinfection and safety plan that it will implement and complete per the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control. The employer is required to maintain records of these notifications for at least 3 years. The new law provides for a specified civil penalty for an employer that violates the notification requirements.

If the employer is notified of the number of cases that meet the definition of a COVID-19 outbreak, the employer is required to report within 48 hours the prescribed information to the local public health agency in the jurisdiction of the worksite. The employer that has an outbreak is required to continue to give notice to the local health department of any subsequent laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the worksite.

This new law also requires the State Department of Public Health to make specified information on outbreaks publicly available on its internet website.

Lastly, under this law, Cal/OSHA is authorized to shut down or suspend the operations of a workplace, if it determines that the workplace exposes workers to the risk of being infected with COVID-19 and constitutes an imminent hazard to employees.

Paid sick time
Assembly Bill No. 1867 requires private employers with 500 or more employees in the United States to provide California employees with paid sick time for COVID-19-related absences. The law specifically provides supplemental paid sick leave to food sector workers. The new law aims to close the gaps left open by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) by expanding coverage to healthcare providers or emergency responders.

This new law becomes effective on September 19, 2020 and expires on December 31, 2020, or upon the expiration of any federal extension of the FFCRA, whichever is later.
The new law applies to (1) all employees currently working, (2) employees on leaves of any kind, (3) employees of temporary placement agencies who are jointly employed under the Fair Labor Standards Act, and (4) day laborers.

This supplemental paid sick leave law expands coverage to all employers—including public entities and irrespective of the number of employees—that employ healthcare providers or emergency responders who were excluded from emergency paid sick leave under the FFCRA.

Presumption of coverage for workers compensation claims of frontline workers
Senate Bill No. 1159 expands access to workers’ compensation by creating a rebuttable presumption for front line workers (health care workers, firefighters and peace officers) in their work comp claims. A “rebuttable presumption” means that something is taken to be true unless someone comes forward to contest it and prove it is false. In the case of COVID-19 work comp claims, a front line worker’s claim that they contracted COVID-19 from work is taken to be true unless the employer can otherwise prove that the employee contracted the infection outside of work. In creating a rebuttable presumption, the law aims to remove burdens of access to workers’ compensation for those workers who most likely got infected at work. The new law also establishes a rebuttable presumption when there is a workplace outbreak over a 14-day timeframe.

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The Law Offices of C. Joe Sayas, Jr. welcomes inquiries about this topic. All inquiries are confidential and at no-cost. You can contact the office at (818) 291-0088 or visit www.joesayaslaw.com. [For more than 25 years, C. Joe Sayas, Jr., Esq. successfully recovered wages and other monetary damages for thousands of employees and consumers. He was named Top Labor & Employment Attorney in California by the Daily Journal, consistently selected as Super Lawyer by the Los Angeles Magazine, and is a past Presidential Awardee for Outstanding Filipino Overseas.]
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