On September 15, 2021, a divided panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decided…
Effective January 1, employers are required to provide written notification to employees, within 24 hours, of COVID-19 exposures in the workplace. They are further required to notify local health authorities in the event of an “outbreak.”
Notice of Exposures
Specifically, employers must provide written notice to all employees, as well as the employers of any subcontracted employees, who were on the premises at the same worksite as a “qualifying individual” within the infectious period, and thus may have been exposed to COVID-19. In doing so, the employer must not reveal the identity of the qualifying individual.
A “qualifying individual” is defined as a person who 1) has a laboratory-confirmed positive case or a diagnosis from a licensed healthcare provider, 2) received an isolation order from a public health official, or 3) died due to COVID-19.
These requirements are triggered when an employer (or any supervisor) receives “notice of potential exposure” to COVID-19.
“Notice of potential exposure” includes notice to the employer or its representatives from 1) a public health official or licensed medical provider that an employee was exposed to a qualifying individual at the worksite, 2) an employee or an employee’s emergency contact that the employee is a qualifying individual, 3) the employer’s testing protocol that an employee is a qualifying individual or 4) from a subcontracted employer that a qualifying individual was on the worksite.
A “worksite” is defined as “the building, store, facility, agricultural field or other location where a worker worked during the infectious period.”
The employer must provide a written notice to any union representing the employees.
Notice of Benefits
The employer must provide employees who may have been exposed and their union with information regarding COVID-19-related benefits that the employee may be entitled to receive. This includes workers’ compensation benefits, COVID-19-related leave, company sick leave, paid sick leave, supplemental paid sick leave, and the company’s anti-retaliation and anti-discrimination policies.
The employer must notify all employees, the employees of subcontracted employers, and the employees’ union of the company’s COVID-19 disinfection protocols and safety plan that the company will implement and complete to prevent further exposures, pursuant to Center for Disease Control (“CDC”) guidelines.
Involvement of Local Health Authorities
Labor Code, section 6409.6(b) requires employers to notify the local public health department within 48 hours of notice of a COVID-19 “outbreak,” as defined by the California Department of Public Health (“CDPH”).
The CDPH currently defines an “outbreak” as “three or more laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 among workers who live in different households within a two-week period.”
The notice must identify the number of qualifying individuals, the name, occupation, and worksite of those individuals, the employer’s business address, and the NAICS code of the worksite. After the outbreak is reported, the employer must continue to give notice to the local health department of any subsequent laboratory-confirmed cases at the worksite.
Jay G. Putnam is a Petaluma labor lawyer who has specialized in representing California employers for over 40 years. His practice is devoted to preventing lawsuits against his clients, without sacrificing workplace authority or management prerogatives. He has a remarkable record of success.
For those clients who have arrived with pending lawsuits, Putnam has established an excellent track record of success as well.
You are invited to visit Mr. Putnam’s website, where you will find in-depth discussion of the most common mistakes made by California employers, and how to avoid them. http://www.jaygputnam.com/newsletter/
This newsletter is not intended as a substitute for legal advice and its content is provided for discussion purposes only. Any suggestions or recommendations must be assessed by competent legal counsel to be sure the unique requirements of each workplace are properly considered.