2021 Changes: AB 685 Notice Obligations for COVID-19 Exposures
AB 685 becomes effective January 1, 2021. This legislation provides employer notice requirements in the event of a COVID-19 exposure in the workplace, updates reporting requirements in the event of an outbreak, and expands Cal/OSHA authority to shut down worksites if they are an imminent hazard due to COVID-19.
If an employer receives notice of a potential exposure to COVID-19, the employer must notify employees, and their representatives, of the following within one business day:
- Provide written notice to all employees, and the employers of subcontracted employees, who were on the premises at the same location as the individual within the infectious period that they may have been exposed to COVID-19.
- Provide written notice to the exclusive representative (aka union), if any, of the employees above.
- Provide all employees who may have been exposed with information regarding COVID-19-related benefits to which they may be entitled, including but not limited to worker’s compensation, COVID-19-related leave, and paid sick leave, as well as the employer’s anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation policies.
- Provide notice to all employees, the employers of subcontracted employees, and the exclusive representative, of the disinfection and safety plan that the employer plans to implement and complete, per CDC guidelines.
The written notice may be conveyed via personal service, email or text message if it can reasonably be anticipated to be received within one business day of sending. The notice shall be in English and the language understood by the majority of the employees.
AB 685 also imposes reporting obligations on employers who are notified of a COVID-19 outbreak. Within 48 hours of learning of the outbreak, employers must notify the local public health agency of the worksite of the names, number, occupation and worksite of qualifying individuals, as well as the employer’s business address and NAICS code of the worksite where the qualifying individuals worked. Following the reporting of an outbreak, the employer must continue to give notice to the local health department of any subsequent laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the worksite.
The new law also adds a section to the Labor Code which provides that Cal/OSHA can shut down or prohibit operations at a worksite when a worksite exposes workers to the risk of infection of COVID-19 if they feel it constitutes an imminent hazard. It also eliminates the requirement that Cal/OSHA provide the employer notice of intent to issue a serious violation citation for COVID-19 related hazards. As such, employers no longer have a 15-day window to respond to the notice with evidence to defend themselves before a citation can be issued. This provision of the bill will expire on January 1, 2023.
This bill amends Labor Code sections 6325 and 6432 and adds Labor Code section 6409.6.