Steps to Take if Your Employee Contracts COVID-19

Posted: July 1, 2020 |

As more businesses open back up and more employees are called back to work, the likelihood of an employee contracting COVID-19 is higher than ever before.  To address this increasing risk, employers must have a clear roadmap outlining how they will respond to an employee who has, or is suspected to have contracted COVID-19.  The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has released a comprehensive checklist for non-healthcare employers who experience an outbreak in their workplace, which can be found here.  Following is a list of 10 steps the CDPH recommends all employers take when an employee has, or is suspected to have contracted COVID-19. 

  1. When an employee experiences a fever or any respiratory symptoms, ask the employee to isolate at home.  The employee should not return to work until (a) at least 72 hours have passed since the individual has had a fever without the use of fever-reducing medicine; (b) the individual’s respiratory symptoms have improved; and (c) at least 10 days have passed since symptoms first appeared.  If the employee has been tested for COVID-19, the employee may return to work after the employee’s fever has resolved without the use of fever-reducing medications, has had his/her respiratory symptoms improve, and had at least two consecutive negative COVID-19 tests taken at least 24 hours apart.
  2. Interview the sick employee to create a list of all individuals (co-workers, guests, vendors, etc.) with which the employee came in “close contact.”  “Close contact” is defined as anyone the employee was within six feet of, for 15 or more minutes, during the 48 hours before the employee’s symptoms began.
  3. Use employment records to verify the employee’s shifts worked during the infectious period and to identify employees or others who may have been in close contact with the sick employee during that time period.
  4. Without disclosing the identity of the sick employee, notify the individuals identified in #2 and #3 above to disclose that they may have been exposed to COVID-19 and that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that they (a) stay at home until 14 days has passed from the last exposure and maintain social distance from others during that time; (b) self-monitor for symptoms; and (c) check temperature two times per day.
  5. Consider issuing a general notice to all employees informing them that an employee has tested positive for COVID-19.  The notice should reassure employees that unless they have been notified directly by the employer, it is not believed that they have been in close contact with the infected employee.  The notice should also reassure employees that the employer is following all applicable local, state, and federal public health guidance and that employees should self-monitor for symptoms.
  6. Clean and disinfect all areas used by the sick employee following CDC cleaning and disinfection recommendations.  Cal-OSHA advises employers to temporarily close the general area where the infected employee worked until the cleaning is completed.  If it has been seven or more days since the sick employee used the facility, additional cleaning is not necessary. 
  7. Contact your workers’ compensation carrier to advise it that an employee has tested positive for COVID-19 and determine your obligations to provide the employee with a DWC-1 form.
  8. Record the infection on the employer’s Cal-OSHA log (i.e., 300, 300A and 301 or equivalent forms) if the COVID-19 case satisfies recording criteria such as death, lost time, medical treatment beyond first aid, or loss of consciousness. 
  9. Notify the local Health Department in the jurisdiction where the workplace is located if there is a known or suspected outbreak in the workplace or if there is a laboratory confirmed case of COVID-19 at the workplace.  In Los Angeles County, employers are required to report an outbreak to the Health Department if three or more employees test positive for COVID-19.  Orange County and San Diego County have not specified how many positive cases must occur before an employer must report an outbreak.
  10. Evaluate whether the sick employee and the employees who were in “close contact” with the sick employee are entitled to substitute paid sick leave, vacation, or paid leave under the Families First Coronavirus Act (FFCRA) during any absence related to COVID-19.

For advice specific to your business, please contact any of the employment attorneys in our Employment Practices Group, who are ready to assist you with your COVID-19 response plan.

This Article is one of a series of Articles Ferruzzo & Ferruzzo, LLP will be circulating to address questions from clients related to COVID-19. Ferruzzo & Ferruzzo, LLP has formed a task force to assist business owners with their needs related to COVID-19.