Employers: Know Your Obligations Under Cal/OSHA for COVID-19 Workplace Exposures
This is a follow up to our December 4, 2020 blog post on Cal/OSHA’s recently enacted temporary emergency regulations governing COVID-19 workplace exposures. You can find that detailed post here.
Because these regulations have significant implications for workplace exposures (including that employers must pay for employees to quarantine) and Governor Newsom has since issued an Executive Order slightly modifying the regulations, we wanted to highlight key components of your latest obligations under the temporary law.
EMPLOYER’S QUARANTINE OBLIGATIONS FOR WORKPLACE EXPOSURES
- Employees must be sent home and quarantined;
- Employers must maintain pay and benefits for quarantined employees;
- Employers must engage in contact tracing following any positive case that involved potential workplace exposure, and then notify and provide testing to potentially exposed employees; and
- Employees may continue to work from home if they are able to do so.
EMPLOYER’S TESTING OBLIGATIONS
- Inform all employees on how to obtain testing;
- Offer testing to employees at no cost and during working hours; and
- Continue testing employees on a weekly basis until the workplace no longer qualifies as an “outbreak” (i.e., three or more cases in the exposed workplace over the preceding 14-day period).
EXCLUSION PAY AND BENEFITS
While the employee is excluded from work due to a workplace exposure, the employer:
- Must continue to provide the employee with pay and benefits; and
- May require the employee to exhaust unused, accrued paid sick leave benefits before providing exclusion pay and benefits.
Note: The employer is not required to provide pay and benefits if it establishes (i.e., it is “more likely than not”) that the employee’s exposure was not work-related.
RETURN TO WORK CRITERIA
Return to work criteria depends on whether the employee tests positive for COVID-19 or was merely exposed to the virus in the workplace via a “close contact”:
Positive COVID-19 test:
Employees with COVID-19 symptoms may not return to work until:
- At least 24 hours have passed since a fever of 100.4 or higher has resolved without the use of fever-reducing medications;
- COVID-19 symptoms have improved; and
- at least 10 days have passed since COVID-19 symptoms first appeared.
Employees who test positive but never develop COVID-19 symptoms may not return to work until:
- A minimum of 10 days have passed since the date of specimen collection of their first positive COVID-19 test.
Workplace exposures (but no positive COVID-19 test):
- A 14-day quarantine is recommended; however, an exposed employee who does not develop symptoms of COVID-19 may return to work after 10 days have passed since the date of the last known exposure;
- Health care, emergency response and social workers may return after 7 days with a negative COVID-19 test result collected after day 5 where there is a critical staffing shortage.
As of February 1, 2021, employers must post Cal/OSHA Form 300a, which is a summary of the Cal/OSHA Form 300 Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses that employers must keep. COVID-related injuries and illnesses must be included on the Form.
More information on Cal/OSHA’s Recordkeeping requirements can be found here.