New COVID-19 Laws for Employers

New COVID-19 Laws for Employers

Today, governor Newsom signed two new bills into law that affects employers in California.

New Workers Compensation Benefits

Effective immediately, SB1159 includes illness or death resulting from COVID-19 as part of the workers compensation law.

For the employee to be eligible for workers compensation benefits due to COVID-19, the following circumstances must be present:

1. The employer has five or more employees;
2. The employee has tested positive within 14 days after performing working at the employee’s place of employment at the employer’s direction;
3. That date of performing work must be on or after July 6, 2020; and
4. The positive test occurred during a period of an outbreak at the employee’s place of employment (excludes working from home).

If both of those circumstances are met, the employee is presumed to have contracted COVID-19 at work and will qualify for workers compensation benefits. An outbreak is where 4 or more employees test positive for COVID-19 within a 14 day period (100 or less employees) and for larger employers (over 100 employees), 4% or more of the workforce.

New Workers Compensation Reporting Requirements

Effective immediately, the law also REQUIRES employers with five or more employees to report any COVID-19 diagnosis to their workers compensation carrier within 3 business days if an employee has tested positive. The three things to report are:
1. The date the employee tested positive (testing date, not results date)
2. Address of employment for the 14 days prior to the date of the test.
3. The highest number of employees who reported to work at the employee’s space of employment in the preceding 45 day period.
***This includes retroactive reporting requirements for any employees that tested positive between July 6 and September 17.

Employee Notice Requirements

Under AB685, which goes into effect on January 1, 2021, an employer must complete the following tasks within 1 business day once it receives notice of a potential exposure to COVID-19:
1. Provide written notice to all employees who were on the premises at the same worksite as the exposed employee.
2. Provide all employees who may have been exposed with information regarding COVID-19 related benefits (workers compensation, sick leave, COVID leave, etc.), in addition to anti-retaliation and anti-discrimination protections.
3. Notify all employees of the disinfection and safety plans and complete the disinfection process.

In addition, if the number of cases in the workplace meets the Department of Health’s definition of an outbreak, the employer must notify the local public health agency within 48 hours of the names and contact information of the persons subject to the outbreak.

The new law reinforces that an employer may not retaliate against any employee for disclosing a positive COVID-19 test or diagnosis or order to quarantine or isolate.

This is not an exhaustive explanation of the new laws. If you have any questions specific to your business, please contact our office.

Melissa L. Bustarde