Strict COVID-19 Rules Imposed on CA Employers – Including New Paid Leave Rights

Posted: December 10, 2020 | News

Effective Monday, November 30, 2020, CalOSHA adopted the Emergency COVID-19 Prevention Regulation. We expect CalOSHA to prioritize enforcing these regulations due to surging infection rates in California. These emergency regulations are comprehensive and demanding. They contain several new obligations for employers, and all must be closely reviewed.

The following highlights a few key takeaways affecting California business owners:

You Must Develop and Implement a Written COVID-19 Prevention Plan

This document must contain specific information tailored to your workplace, including for example:

  • Implement a companywide system for communication
  • Identification, evaluation, and correction of any COVID hazards
  • Investigating and responding to COVID cases
  • Training and instructions for all employees
  • Physical distancing requirements
  • Face coverings and personal protective equipment requirements

You Are Now Obligated to Provide Exclusion Pay—a New Type of Paid Leave

Workers who come in close contact (i.e. 15 minutes within 6 feet) with a COVID positive co-worker must be excluded from the workplace until they meet the return to work criteria.

  • Employers must continue to provide pay and benefits to these excluded workers.
  • There is no limiting language in the regulations. Therefore, if an excluded worker has already exhausted their 80 hours of special emergency paid sick leave, the employer is now required to continue paying them.
  • If the same employees are excluded from the worksite multiple times, they must be paid each time.

Three Positive Cases in a Two-Week Period Means You Have an “Outbreak”

Three workers testing positive in the same “exposed workplace” during a fourteen-day period triggers special outbreak rules.

  • The local health department must be notified and all employees in the “exposed workplace” must be tested immediately.
  • Then they must be tested one week later and every week after if the outbreak continues.
  • Employers must pay for all testing and must pay employee wages for time spent getting tested.
  • Defining “exposed workplace” can be tricky and varies depending on your organization.

For help navigating these new regulations and developing your required COVID-19 Prevention Plan, please reach out to us. We are happy to help.

The opinions expressed in this article are general in nature, are not meant to provide specific legal advice, and do not create an attorney/client privilege where such privilege has not already been established. For specific advice for your business please contact an attorney at Ferruzzo & Ferruzzo, LLP. 

Jillian P. Harris

Jillian P. Harris, Esq. is a Senior Associate at Ferruzzo & Ferruzzo, where she litigates employment and business-related matters. She defends and advises employers on regulatory compliance, government audits, wage and hour violations, embezzlement, workplace discrimination, and harassment. Ms. Harris also handles commercial litigation including contract disputes, business interference claims, fraud actions, and real estate matters.