As we usher in 2021, here are some new California employment laws that may impact the legal landscape as employers and workers continue facing challenges related to the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19).
Enhanced Enforcement and Reporting for COVID-19 (AB 685):
The new law, effective January 1, 2021, enhances the ability of the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) to enforce COVID-19 safety requirements in the workplace. Within one business day of “potential exposure” based on a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the workplace, an employer must provide written notice of the exposure to all employees, and to employers of subcontracted employees, who were at the workplace within the infectious period. The employer must also provide notice of COVID-19-related benefits and protections, and information about the company’s disinfection and safety plan to respond to the exposure.
In cases of a COVID-19 “outbreak” (defined as three or more confirmed COVID-19 cases within a two-week period among employees from different households), the employer must also notify local public health agencies within 48 hours of becoming aware of the outbreak. The employer must continue to give notice to the local health department of any subsequently confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the worksite.
From January 1, 2021, until January 1, 2023, Cal/OSHA can issue an “Order Prohibiting Use” (OPU) to shut down an entire worksite, or a specific worksite area, that exposes employees to an “imminent hazard” related to COVID-19 infection. The OPU would remove employees from the risk of harm until the employer can effectively address the hazardous situation.
From January 1, 2021, until January 1, 2023, Cal/OSHA can also issue citations to employers for “serious violations” related to COVID-19. Prior to AB 685, Cal/OSHA would provide employers with at least 15 days of notice (the “1BY” notice) before issuing a citation for serious violations, and give employers time to respond to the notice. However, under the new law, the agency can issue citations for serious violations related to COVID-19 without giving employers the 15-day notice period or the opportunity to address the claims before the citation is issued.
PPE Supply Requirements for Acute Care Hospitals (AB 2537):
Effective January 1, 2021, acute care hospitals are required to give their employees appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) if they provide direct patient care or provide services that directly support patient care. The hospital must ensure that employees use the PPE supplied to them. Beginning April 1, 2021, acute care hospitals must maintain a three-month stockpile of new, unexpired, unused PPE as specified in the statute. Upon request from Cal/OSHA, the hospital must provide an inventory of its PPE stockpile and a copy of its written procedures for periodically determining the quantity and types of PPE used in normal consumption at the hospital. An acute care hospital that violates the requirement to maintain a three-month PPE supply could face monetary penalties of up to $25,000 per violation.
Expansion of CFRA Coverage (SB 1383):
The California Family Rights Act (CFRA) provides up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave to qualifying employees to care for themselves or certain family members due to a serious health condition. Previously, the CFRA covered employers with 50 or more employees. Effective January 1, 2021, CFRA coverage was expanded to employers with five or more employees. To be eligible for CFRA leave, an employee must have at least 12 months of service with the employer and at least 1,250 hours of service during the previous 12-month period before the start of the leave. The new law also expands the categories of family members for which leave can be taken, and now includes family leave for grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, and adult children.
For more information on COVID-19 employment issues, you may contact the Minami Tamaki Coronavirus (COVID-19) Task Force members Sean Tamura-Sato, Lisa Mak, or Claire Choo online or call us at 415-788-9000.
*The contents of this article is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Information in this article may not constitute the most complete or up-to-date legal or other information. Readers should contact a licensed California attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter. Use of this website does not create an attorney-client relationship between the reader and Minami Tamaki LLP.