Cal/OSHA Issues Revised COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards

On June 17th, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Heath (Cal/OSHA) adopted a revised set of proposed revisions to the COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards. They took effect immediately.
Here are the major changes in the revised regulations:
Testing and Quarantine. Fully vaccinated employees do not need to be tested or quarantined following close contact with COVID-19 cases, unless they exhibit symptoms. As a result, employers are only required to offer paid testing and time off for testing for the following employees:
  • Symptomatic, unvaccinated employees;
  • Unvaccinated employees after an exposure to a COVID-19 case;
  • Vaccinated employees after an exposure, if they develop symptoms;
  • Unvaccinated employees in an “outbreak” (defined as 3 + cases in a group);
  • All employees in a “major outbreak” (defined as 20+ cases in a group).
Physical Distancing. The revised regulations remove any physical distancing or barrier requirements, regardless of employee vaccination status, with one exception: if the worksite has a “major outbreak” (20+ cases in a single employee group). By contrast, if the worksite has an “outbreak” (3+ cases), the employer must evaluate whether to enforce distancing or barriers.
Face Covering. Vaccinated employees are exempt from wearing face coverings indoors, EXCEPT: (1) in “outbreak” situations (3+ cases) when distancing cannot be maintained; and/or (2) in those settings in which the Cal. Dept. of Public Health (CDPH) requires face coverings: schools, youth settings, public transit, healthcare settings (including long term care facilities), prisons, shelters and cooling centers. Employers must document vaccination record and it must be kept confidential.
Unvaccinated workers must still wear face covering, except when: (1) outdoors; (2) alone in a vehicle; (3) eating or drinking; (4) when disability or religious-related accommodation is required; or (5) when job duties make covering infeasible.
Respirators/N95s. Employers must make respirators/N95 masks available to unvaccinated employees upon request.
Air Filtration. Employers must evaluate ventilation systems to maximize outdoor air and increase filtration efficiency.
Still Required. Employers are still required to:
  • Maintain a written COVID-19 Prevention Program;
  • Provide effective training how to use the Prevention Program;
  • Notify the public health department of “outbreaks”;
  • Notify employees of exposure and close contacts;
  • Offer testing to employees after potential exposure.
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Los Angeles County Requires Employers to Provide Paid Leave for Employees to Get Vaccinated

On May 18th, Los Angeles County passed an emergency ordinance requiring employers within unincorporated areas of the county to provide employees with up to 4 hours of paid leave (in addition to ordinary Paid Sick Leave and the state-wide Covid-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave (SPSL) which took effect in March, 2021.

This applies to all employers, regardless of size of workforce. Full-time employees are defined as either those designated by the employer as full-time, or who were scheduled to work on average at least 40 hours per week in the two weeks preceding the leave. Again, these employees are entitled to take up to 4 hours of paid leave for each vaccination injection.

Part-time employees are entitled to a prorated portion of additional paid leave for vaccination. For example, a part-time employee who worked 20 hours in the two weeks preceding the leave are entitled to just 2 hours of additional vaccination leave.

Additional details:

  • This leave is only available to employees who have fully exhausted all California Paid Sick Leave and SPSL;
  • Employers can request written verification of Covid-19 vaccination;
  • Employees receive their normal rate of pay for this leave, which may be calculated by using the employee’s highest average two-week pay from January 1 – May 18, 2021.
  • Covered employers must “conspicuously display” a written notice of this ordinance; and
  • Covered employers must maintain records demonstrating compliance with this ordinance for four (4) years; failure to provide these records creates a presumption of noncompliance.
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Calif. Governor Signs Employment Laws Related to COVID-19 Exposure

On September 17, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law two critical pieces of legislation. Assembly Bill (AB) 685, which imposes certain notification obligations on employers when one or more employees test positive for COVID-19, takes effect January 1, 2021. Senate Bill (SB) 1159 expands employees’ rights to workers’ compensation benefits and also imposes a significant new reporting deadline when an employee tests positive for COVID-19. SB 1159 takes effect immediately.

AB 685 Notice Requirements

Assembly Bill 685 imposes important notification requirements when employers discover that one or more employees have been diagnosed with COVID-19. More specifically, the new law sets forth the following notice requirements:

Within one (1) business day of a “potential exposure” based on a confirmed case of COVID-19 in a workplace, an employer must:

• Provide written notice to all employees, employers of subcontracted employees and employee representatives, including unions who were at the worksite within the infectious period who may have been exposed o COVID-19.

• Provide written notice to employees and/or their representatives regarding COVID-19-related benefits that employees may receive, including workers’ compensation benefits, COVID leave, paid sick leave and the employer’s anti-discrimination, anti-harassment and anti-retaliation policies.

• Provide notice to employees regard the employer’s disinfection protocols and safety plan.

Written notice under the law may be made by personal delivery, text message and/or email, provided that it can be reasonably anticipated to be received within one (1) business day. It must also be in English and the language understood by the majority of employees.

AB 685 also requires employers who have a sufficient number of COVID-19 positive cases that meet the definition of a COVID-19 outbreak (as defined by the Cal. State Dept. of Health), to report certain information to the employer’s local health agency within forty-eight (48) hours of learning of the outbreak.

The requirements of AB 685 do not apply when the employee(s) who test positive for COVID-19 work remotely. Again, AB 685 takes effect January 1, 2021.

SB 1159 – Disputable Presumption

SB 1159 has two important components related to employees who test positive for COVID-19. First, it creates a “disputable presumption” that an illness or death resulting from COVID-19 arose out of and in the course and scope of employment for workers’ compensation purposes. This presumption covers cases in which the worker tested positive from July 6, 2020 through January 1, 2023. Thereafter, the presumption will no longer apply.

In order for the presumption to apply: (1) the positive test for COVID-19 must occur within 14 days after a day that the employee worked at the employer’s place of employment; (2) the day of work was on or after July 6, 2020; and (3) the positive test must have occurred during a period of an outbreak at the employee’s place of employment.

Important for this presumption, an “outbreak” exists if, within 14 days, one of the following occurs at the place of employment: (1) if the employer has <100 employees at a specific site, 4 employees test positive for COVID-19; (2) if the employer has >100 employees, 4% of the employees test positive for COVID-19; (3) a specific place of employment is ordered to close by a local public health department, the State Dept. of Public Health, Div. of Occupational Safety and Health or a school superintendent due to a risk of infection with COVID-19.

SB 1159 – Reporting Requirements

SB 1159 also creates new reporting requirements. When an employer knows or reasonably should know that an employee has tested positive for COVID-19, the employer must report that fact to its workers’ compensation claims administrator within three (3) business days, via email or fax.

The information to be reported includes: (1) that an employee has tested positive (no personally identifiable information regarding the employee, unless he/she asserts the infection is work-related or has filed a claim); (2) the date the employee tested positive; (3) the address of the specific place of work during the 14-day period preceding the positive test; and (4) the highest number of employees who reported to work at the employee’s specific place of employment in the 45-day period preceding the last day the employee worked at each specific place of employment.

What Employers Should Do Now

Employers should immediately become familiar with these new requirements. Employers with any questions about these new laws should contact their employment law professional.

The Law Offices of Alex Craigie helps employers throughout California prevent, address and resolve employment disputes in a logical and cost-effective manner. Reach us at (323) 652-9451, (805) 845-1752 or at [email protected]

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Should Employers Provide or Pay For Face Masks?

I believe the answer is YES. Cities and Counties throughout California are increasingly ordering or recommending the use of non-medical masks or “cloth face coverings” to help stem the spread of COVID-19. This triggers two obligations. First, Cal/OSHA requires California employers to provide employees with all necessary safety equipment. Second, federal and state laws require employers to reimburse employees for all reasonably incurred business expenses. Whether an employer provides the protective gear or employees procure them independently but seek reimbursement, employers should be prepared to shoulder this responsibility.
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What Employers Need to Know About the Families First Coronavirus Response Act

On March 18, 2020, President Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Importantly, the FFCRA is actually two separate acts, each of which imposes different employer obligations: the Emergency Paid Leave Act (E-Paid Leave Act) and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (E-FMLA). This Bulletin discusses these Acts, which take effect 15 days after the law is enacted.

The E-Paid Leave Act

The E-Paid Leave Act requires private employers who employ fewer than 500 employees, as well as government employers, to provide paid sick leave to employees who cannot work (or telework) for one of the following reasons:

  1. The employee is subject to a federal, state or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;
  2. The employee has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19;
  3. The employee is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and is seeking a medical diagnosis;
  4. The employee is caring for an individual who is subject to a quarantine or isolation order or has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine;
  5. The employee is caring for a son or daughter because the child’s school or place of care has been closed or the child’s childcare is unavailable due to COVID-19 precautions;
  6. The employee is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the Secretary of HHS in consultation with the Secretaries of the Treasury and Labor.

The leave under the E-Paid Leave Act must be available to all employees and is in addition to leave already available under state and/or local laws. Full-time employees are entitled to 80 hours of paid sick leave. Part-time employees are entitled to paid leave equal to the average hours he/she works over a two-week period. There is no carryover from year to year and, once the employee returns to work, the employer is not required to provide any further paid sick leave under the E-Paid Leave Act.

The rate of pay depends on the reasons for leave from among the list above. If leave is for self-care (reasons 1, 2 or 3 above), the employee receives the higher of (1) the employee’s regular rate of pay, (2) the federal minimum wage, or (3) the local minimum wage. If time off is to care for a sick family member or a child who is not in school (reasons 4, 5 or 6), he/she receives two-thirds of their regular rate of pay.

There is a cap on E-Paid Leave Act amounts. For leave under reasons 1-3, the cap is $511 per day, up to an aggregate of $5,110. For leave under reasons 4-6, the daily cap is $200, up to an aggregate of $2,000.

Employers will be required to post an approved notice regarding the E-Paid Leave Act. To help employers cope with the financial burden of this additional leave, there are tax credits. The details of these credits are beyond the scope of this Bulletin and employers are encouraged to consult with their accounting professional to fully understand and take advantage of all available tax credits.

The E-FMLA Act

The E-FMLA Act expands the protections of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to add Public Health Emergency Leave. Many smaller employers, with fewer than 50 employees, may be unfamiliar with the FMLA.

The E-FMLA Act expands coverage to include all employers with less than 500 employees, and is available to any employee who has been employed with the employer for at least 30 days. Unlike the ordinary FMLA, however, the E-FMLA is only available if an employee is unable to work (or telework) due to a need for leave to care for the employee’s child who is under 18 years of age because he child’s school or place of care has been closed or his or her childcare provider is unavailable due to a public health emergency.

The first 10 days of E-FMLA leave is unpaid, but an employee may elect or an employer may require the employer to substitute available vacation or paid sick leave (including E-Paid Leave Act pay) for the unpaid portion of E-FMLA leave. After 10 days, employers must pay at least two-thirds of an employee’s regular rate of pay for the number of hours the employee would otherwise be scheduled to work. For employees who have fluctuating working hours on a weekly basis, an employer is allowed to take an average over a six-month period. There are caps: paid E-FMLA leave may not exceed $200 per day and $10,000 in the aggregate.

The standard FMLA job restoration requirements apply to employers with 25 or more employees. Under certain circumstances, the job restoration requirements will not apply to employers with fewer than 25 employees.

As with the E-Paid Sick Leave Act, there are tax credits available to offset expenditures by employers to comply with the E-FMLA. Again, the mechanics of these credits are beyond the scope of this Bulletin and employers should seek advice from their accounting professional to understand and take full advantage of the tax credits.

Exemptions to E-Paid Sick Leave Act and E-FMLA

Employers of health care providers and emergency responders are exempt from E-Paid Sick Leave requirements. Such businesses, as well as businesses with under 50 employees may be entitled to an exemption if the leave requirement would jeopardize the business as an ongoing concern. However, this is contingent on whether the Secretary of Labor grants such exemptions, which is currently unknown. Act or the E-FMLA.

What Employers Should Do Now

Employers should act immediately to conform their policies and practices to the myriad requirements of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Employers with questions about this new law should contact their employment law professional.

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