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California Employers Must Have Written COVID-19 Prevention Plan Under New Workplace Safety Rules

California Employers Must Have Written COVID-19 Prevention Plan Under New Workplace Safety Rules

On November 19, 2020, the California Department of Industrial Relations’ (DIR) Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board adopted emergency temporary standards to protect workers from hazards related to the coronavirus (COVID-19). 

Under the new regulations, employers must have a written COVID-19 Prevention Plan that addresses: 

  • Systems for communicating information to employees about COVID-19 prevention procedures, testing, symptoms and illnesses, including a system for employees to report exposures without fear of retaliation;
  • Identification and evaluation of identifying workplace conditions and practices that could result in potential exposure;
  • Investigating and responding to cases in the workplace, including providing notice about potential exposures and offering testing to workers who may have been exposed;
  • Correcting unsafe conditions and work practices;
  • Implementing procedures to ensure workers stay at least six feet apart from other people;
  • Providing face coverings and ensuring they are worn;
  • Adopting changes to the workplace and work schedules to reduce exposure to the virus;
  • Positive COVID-19 case and illness recording requirements;
  • Removal of COVID-19 exposed and positive workers from the workplace with measures to protect pay and benefits;
  • Criteria for employees to return to work after recovering from COVID-19;
  • Requirements for testing and notifying public health departments of workplace outbreaks (three or more cases in a workplace in a 14-day period) and major outbreaks (20 or more cases within a 30-day period); and
  • Infection prevention in employer-provided housing and transportation to and from work.

The emergency standards will be in effect immediately if approved by the Office of Administrative Law in the next 10 calendar days.  The temporary standards do not apply to workers already covered by Cal/OSHA’s Aerosol Transmissible Diseases standard, which protects healthcare and other workers from airborne and droplet transmitted diseases. 

The Cal-OSHA Training Academy has made materials available at its website for companies and workers to help comply with the regulations.

For more information on COVID-19 safety requirements for California businesses, you may contact 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.

Minami Tamaki LLP Ranked on U.S. News ‘Best Law Firms’ List for 7th Year

Minami Tamaki LLP Ranked on U.S. News ‘Best Law Firms’ List for 7th Year

Minami Tamaki LLP’s Immigration and Nationality Law practice is nationally ranked again on the new 2021 U.S. News – Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” list just released today. The firm’s immigration practice received a National Tier 3 ranking for the second time, and a Metro Tier 1 ranking for the sixth consecutive year.

U.S. News – Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” recognized the firm’s Personal Injury practice as Metro Tier 1 for the seventh consecutive year.

Firms like Minami Tamaki LLP included in the 2021 Edition of U.S. News – Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” are recognized for professional excellence with consistently impressive ratings from clients and peers. To be eligible for a ranking, a firm must first have a lawyer recognized in The Best Lawyers in America©, which recognizes the top five percent of private practicing lawyers in the United States. Achieving a tiered ranking signals a unique combination of quality law practice and breadth of legal expertise.

Earlier this year, The Best Lawyers in America recognized Partners Minette Kwok, B. Mark Fong, Olivia Serene Lee, Suhi Koizumi, Senior Counsel Dale Minami, and Associate Seema Bhatt, which qualified the firm to be considered for the Best Law Firms list.

The Immigration and Nationality Law Practice Group of Minami Tamaki LLP offers expertise in a broad array of immigration services, routinely assisting employers and employees in obtaining temporary and permanent employment-based visas. The firm’s immigration attorneys also help individual clients to secure family-based immigration status through marriage or other qualifying family relationships. Partner Minette A. Kwok leads the firm’s immigration practice group, which includes Partner Olivia Serene Lee, Partner Suhi Koizumi, Senior Associate La Verne A. Ramsay, Senior Associate Angela C. Mapa, and Associates Dian Sohn, Judy Hinh Wong, and Leyla Mostafavi.

The attorneys in Minami Tamaki’s Personal Injury Practice Group fight for the rights of people who are injured or have suffered the loss of loved ones due to the carelessness of others. A team approach brings all the resources of the practice group to cases. This has allowed the firm to recover multimillion-dollar settlements and verdicts for their clients. Senior Counsel Dale Minami founded the firm’s personal injury practice, which is led by Partner B. Mark Fong and includes Associate Seema Bhatt.

Dale Minami, Don Tamaki Featured in New HBO Documentary ‘The Soul of America’

Dale Minami, Don Tamaki Featured in New HBO Documentary ‘The Soul of America’

“The Soul of America,” a new HBO documentary includes brief interviews with Minami Tamaki LLP Partner Donald Tamaki and Senior Counsel Dale Minami. The film examines our current fraught political reality by exploring historical challenges of the past.

The women’s suffrage movement, the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, McCarthyism, and the struggle to pass Civil Rights legislation in the 1960s were all instances in which “our better angels” battled against the forces of hatred and division that are recurring themes in American life.

Focusing on pivotal moments in our history that reflect America’s longstanding struggles with racism, sexism and xenophobia, the film demonstrates how we continue to confront animosity in American politics, economic anxiety, isolationist and nativist tendencies and conspiracy theories. Helping us to better understand the parallels between current events and their historical antecedents, “The Soul of America” ultimately gives hope that the lessons of the past may bring the nation closer to achieving its democratic ideals.

Don and Dale help lead the Stop Repeating History campaign, which has spent the past four years educating the public on the dangers of unchecked presidential power.

“The Soul of America” debuted on HBO and HBO Max this week and is available on demand. The documentary follows writer, journalist, historian and prolific presidential biographer Jon Meacham as he offers his timely and invaluable insights into the United States’ current political and historical moment by examining its past.

Based on Meacham’s 2018 bestseller, The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels and produced by Kunhardt Films (Emmy® winner for HBO’s “True Justice: Bryan Stevenson’s Fight for Equality”), the film also chronicles Meacham’s life and career as a journalist and Pulitzer Prize-winning historian as he shares his insights into America’s past and present.

Part political documentary, part biography, the film interweaves archival material and interviews with Meacham along with insights from journalists, academics and civil rights activists.

In addition to brief remarks from Don and Dale, the film features insights from actor and activist George Takei; historian and author Lisa Tetrault; entrepreneur and nonprofit leader Keith Smythe Meacham; journalist and author Evan Thomas; civil rights activist Janice Wesley Kelsey; U.S. Representative and civil rights activist John Lewis, who passed away on July 17, 2020; and others.

Watch “The Soul of America” on HBO or on the HBO Max streaming service.

Minami Tamaki LLP Attorneys Present at 2020 AILA Conference

Minami Tamaki LLP Attorneys Present at 2020 AILA Conference

Attorneys from Minami Tamaki LLP’s Immigration and Nationality Law Practice presented at the 2020 American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Virtual Annual Conference on Immigration Law, held July 20-23, 2020.

AILA is the national association of more than 15,000 attorneys and law professors who practice and teach immigration law. AILA member attorneys represent U.S. families seeking permanent residence for close family members, as well as U.S. businesses seeking talent from the global marketplace. AILA members also represent foreign students, entertainers, athletes, and asylum seekers, often on a pro bono basis. Founded in 1946, AILA is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that provides continuing legal education, information, professional services, and expertise through its 39 chapters and over 50 national committees.

Partner Olivia S. Lee presented on the panel “Diversity and Inclusion Within Your Firm: Impact on Profitability,” discussing the benefits of diversity and inclusion and its impact on profitability. Olivia and the other panelists shared practical advice on how small and large organizations can successfully incorporate diversity, inclusion, and the elimination of bias into their respective cultures. Olivia currently serves as Chair of AILA National’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

Senior Associate La Verne Ramsay presented on the panel, “Drafting Strategies for PERM: A Practical Workshop,” which shared best practice recommendations addressing a variety of strategic drafting issues related to the U.S. Department of Labor forms ETA 9089 and ETA 9141. Form ETA 9089 is one of the most difficult of all immigration forms, presenting a number of drafting challenges and obstacles for practitioners. La Verna and other panelists shared how to successfully navigate the complex nuances inherent in these forms.

Minami Tamaki LLP immigration attorneys have a strong history with AILA. Minette previously served on the national AILA Board of Governors, as a member of the AILA Business Immigration Committee, and as Chair of AILA’s Northern California Chapter. Olivia is also a past chair of the Northern California Chapter of AILA. She has also served as faculty on local and national AILA CLE panels on topics such as O-1s and H-1Bs.

Man Suffers New Brain Injury In Rear-End Collision: $1.5 Million Settlement

Man Suffers New Brain Injury In Rear-End Collision: $1.5 Million Settlement

Minami Tamaki LLP represented a 50-year-old IT worker whose car was rear-ended by a Dr. Pepper salesman who was on his way home after making his last delivery for the day. After answering paramedics’ questions at the scene, our client suddenly fell unconscious and required mechanical assistance to breathe. He recovered after a brief hospitalization, but was left with cognitive deficits, including memory problems, loss of focus and attention, and disordered thinking. 

He had suffered a brain injury seven years before the crash, and imaging studies were unable to identify any new brain injury from this crash. We argued that he had indeed suffered a traumatic brain injury from the crash, based on his symptoms of short-term memory loss, post-traumatic stress disorder, sleep disturbance, anxiety, depression, and inability to work.. 

Our first hurdle was to prove that Dr. Pepper’s auto insurance policy should cover its salesman for the crash. Although the crash occurred while he was off the clock, we proved that our client’s situation fell within an exception to the general rule that an employer is not liable for accidents during its employees’ commute to and from work. We showed that he had to travel for work and was reimbursed for mileage during his commute. Dr. Pepper’s insurance company was forced to compensate our client for his injuries. 

Our second hurdle was to overcome the argument that our client’s cognitive deficits were due to his prior brain injury, which admittedly had left him with residual cognitive problems. To counter this, we deposed our client’s former employers, friends, and family to show he was functioning well after his prior brain injury but had deteriorated significantly after the subject crash. We also hired experts in the fields of neurology, psychiatry, neuropsychology, and vocational rehabilitation,who stated our client would be unable to continue working as a result of his cognitive limitations. Although our client returned to work after the crash, we argued Dr. Pepper should pay for his potential future loss of earnings. 

Shortly after mediation, Mark Fong and Seema Bhatt settled the case for $1.5 million for the client and his wife, who sued for loss of his companionship.

Autistic Man Dies from Improper Restraint During Field Trip: $2.625 Million Settlement

Autistic Man Dies from Improper Restraint During Field Trip: $2.625 Million Settlement

Our clients’ son, a 26-year-old autistic man, was on a field trip to a museum while in the care of his adult day program. He suffered a physical and emotional outburst during the trip, which resulted in him being held face down on the floor by museum staff, who were untrained in methods of proper restraint. 

The young man died at the scene of positional asphyxia, which is suffocation caused by the way a person is restrained. Mark Fong and Seema Bhatt took numerous depositions establishing that the day program’s chaperones violated nearly all of the program’s policies and procedures and allowed the young man to die. 

Despite the museum’s claim that its employees did nothing wrong, we established that their untrained employees were required to intervene because the museum had inadequate onsite security. To give a true picture of the life of the young man and the loving bond he shared with his parents, we culled through hundreds of home videos and photos from the day of his birth until a few weeks before his death and created a movie about his life, which we showed to the mediator and defendants. This video also showed that the outburst he displayed at the time of his death was only a very small part of who the young man was. 

At mediation, Mark Fong and Seema Bhatt obtained a settlement of $2.625 million on behalf of the young man’s parents (the adult day program’s policy limits were capped at $2 million).

Employment Law Considerations as San Francisco Reopens for Indoor Dining

Employment Law Considerations as San Francisco Reopens for Indoor Dining

After six months of shutdowns and restrictions due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, San Francisco allowed restaurants to reopen for indoor dining at 25% capacity up to 100 people on September 30, 2020.  Restaurants reopening for indoor dining must not only follow public health guidelines, but must also ensure employee safety and protection of employee rights.  

Important actions for San Francisco restaurants reopening for indoor dining include:

  • Follow City Requirements on Reopening
  • Educate Employees About When They Should Stay Home from Work
  • Promptly Identify and Notify Workers Of Positive COVID-19 Cases
  • Review Employee Leave and Anti-Discrimination Policies
  • Maintain Confidential Employee Health Information

Below are more details related to each action.

1. Follow City Requirements on Reopening

In order to move forward with indoor dining, restaurants are required to adhere to guidelines from the San Francisco Department of Public Health.  For instance, the City’s requirements state:  (1) Tables must only seat 6, and customers must be 6 feet apart; (2) everyone must wear face coverings; (3) contact between people must be minimized; and (4) Surfaces must be thoroughly cleaned between customers.  For more information, see sf.gov.

2. Educate Employees About When They Should Stay Home from Work 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) also set forth recommendations for employers to protect employees in the workplace and to ensure their safety.  The CDC recommends that:

  • Employees should stay home if they have tested positive for COVID-19, or are showing COVID-19 symptoms.  Employees who have recently had close contact with a person with COVID-19 should also stay home and monitor their health.
  • Employers should actively encourage employees who are sick or have recently had close contact with a person with COVID-19 to stay home.
  • Employers should develop policies that encourage sick employees to stay at home without fear of reprisal, and ensure employees are aware of these policies.

For more information, see CDC.gov

3. Promptly Identify and Notify Workers Of Positive COVID-19 Cases

Restaurants should create a COVID-19 assessment and control plan to respond to suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases.  This should include a system for employees to provide notice if they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, or if they have come in contact with a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 case. Our attorneys at Minami Tamaki LLP can assist you with creating this plan.

On September 17, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law AB 685, which created new requirements for employers to notify local and state public health officials of COVID-19 cases in the workplace.  If a restaurant (or other employer) receives notice that a worker who tested positive for COVID-19 or is subjected to an isolation order was in the workplace while considered potentially infectious, the restaurant must provide notice to all workers within one business day of potential exposure to COVID-19.  The notice must contain information about COVID-19 related benefits the employees are entitled to, and the employer’s disinfection and safety plan.  Restaurants must also notify local public health officials within 48 hours of “outbreaks” in the workplace, as defined by the State Department of Public Health.  AB 685 takes effect in January 2021.  

4. Review Employee Leave and Anti-Discrimination Policies

Restaurants should review, analyze, and modify their leave policies as appropriate to ensure employees are not improperly penalized for taking sick leave due to COVID-19. Our attorneys at Minami Tamaki LLP can assist you with reviewing your leave policies.

On September 11, 2020, San Francisco implemented the COVID-Related Employment Protections Ordinance.  Under the Ordinance, restaurants (and other employers) may not take any adverse action (such as termination or suspension) against or in any manner discriminate against a worker due to specific COVID-19 issues.  For instance, restaurants may not take adverse action against a worker who is absent from work, unable to work, or who requests time off work, because the worker tested positive for COVID-19, is isolating or quarantining, or previously isolated or quarantined, due to COVID-19 symptoms or exposure.  Further, restaurants may not take any adverse action against a worker because the worker tested positive for COVID-19 or is perceived to have been infected with COVID-19.  The Ordinance will expire on November 10, 2020 unless reenacted by the Board of Supervisors. 

For more information on the Ordinance, see sfgov.org.

5. Maintain Confidential Employee Health Information

All employee health information, including COVID-19 test results, must be kept private and confidential.  If an employee tests positive for COVID-19, restaurants should notify employees in a way that does not reveal the personal health information of the employee.

For more information on requirements for San Francisco restaurants reopening for indoor dining, you may contact 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.

Photo CC BY-NC 2.0 by Jennifer Yin.

California Establishes New Consumer Financial Protection Agency

California Establishes New Consumer Financial Protection Agency

On September 25, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 1864, which establishes the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation.  The Department is modeled after the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) and is designed to protect Californians from unfair, deceptive, and abusive financial practices.  Supporters of the Department say it will serve as a watchdog for low-income communities, seniors, and individuals who have suffered financial hardship due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.  

AB 1864 expands the state’s power to target abusive practices by financial service providers, such as debt collectors and emerging financial technology products.  The Department will add 90 positions over the next three years to supervise financial institutions and address improper financial practices.  The Department will also create: (1) a team to monitor markets to identify emerging risks to consumers; (2) a team dedicated to consumer education and outreach; and (3) an Office of Financial Technology and Innovation that will develop financial technology to serve consumers. 

California is strengthening its consumer protection efforts at a time when the federal CFPB has scaled back its enforcement and oversight of consumer fraud.  The CFPB was initially created to oversee products like credits and home mortgages in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.  

“While the federal government is getting out of the financial protection business, California is leaning into it,” said Governor Gavin Newsom. “It’s at this moment especially – when so many Californians are strapped for cash and struggling to pay their bills – that families are likely to fall victim to predatory and abusive financial products. These bills ensure that financial predators are subjected to alert oversight and agile enforcement.”

Minami Tamaki’s Consumer & Employee Rights Group litigates class actions and individual cases on behalf of consumers who have been harmed by illegal or unfair business practices.  For more information on Minami Tamaki’s consumer protection practice, you may contact us 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.

New California Laws Related to Workers’ Compensation and Workplace Notices Expand COVID-19 Relief for Workers

New California Laws Related to Workers’ Compensation and Workplace Notices Expand COVID-19 Relief for Workers

On September 17, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law two worker protection bills, AB 685 and SB 1159.  AB 685 creates new requirements for employers to notify local and state public health officials of COVID-19 cases in the workplace.  SB 1159 expands access to workers’ compensation to certain first responders, health care workers, and employees who test positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) due to an outbreak at work. 

AB 685 provides that if an employer receives notice that an individual who tested positive for COVID-19 or is subjected to an isolation order was in the workplace while considered potentially infectious, the employer must provide notice to all workers within one business day of potential exposure to COVID-19.  The notice must contain information about COVID-19 related benefits the employees are entitled to and include the employer’s disinfection and safety plan.  Employers must also notify local public health officials within 48 hours of “outbreaks” in the workplace, as defined by the State Department of Public Health.  AB 685 takes effect in January 2021.  There are exceptions to these reporting requirements for certain employees, including, but not limited to, some health care workers who work directly with COVID-19 patients. 

AB 685 also gives the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health authority to shut down businesses it believes are exposing workers to the risk of infection to the point that there is an imminent hazard to employees.

 SB 1159 creates a presumption that a covered worker’s illness or death from COVID-19 is work-related and entitles them to workers’ compensation.  Employers have the burden of rebutting this presumption by pointing to measures they have taken to reduce the potential transmission of COVID-19.  For workers in health care facilities who do not provide direct patient care (and custodial employees of health care facilities), there is no presumption if the employer can show that the employee did not come into contact with a patient who tested positive in the last 14 days. 

In addition to first responders and health care workers, the law also applies to workers who test positive for COVID-19 during an outbreak at their workplace, as defined by the bill.  SB 1159 took effect immediately upon signing. 

The rebuttable presumption under the law remains in effect until January 2023.  Governor Newsom said in an announcement that the legislation “will help California workers stay safe at work and get the support they need if they are exposed to COVID-19.”

California employers must prepare to respond to any indication that an employee has contracted COVID-19 in the workplace.  For more information about COVID-19 employer obligations, you may contact the Minami Tamaki Coronavirus (COVID-19) Task Force 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.