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COVID is not going away and neither is SPSL (and other COVID-19 related legislative developments)

by | Oct 20, 2022 | Covid-19, Employment Law |

As many employers know, California Supplemental Paid Sick Leave (SPSL) for COVID-19 was set to expire on September 30, 2022. However, on September 29, Governor Newsom signed Assembly Bill No. 152 (AB 152), extending SPSL through December 31, 2022.  AB 152 was an urgency bill, which means it took effect upon signature of the Governor.

What is SPSL Again?

SPSL applies to employers with 26 or more employees. Employees who are unable to work or telework due to certain reasons related to COVID-19 are entitled to up to 40 hours of SPSL. They may also take up to 40 additional hours of SPSL if the employee, or a family member for whom the covered employee is providing care, tests positive for COVID-19.

Importantly, AB 152 only extends the eligibility period for SPSL; it does not expand an employee’s leave entitlement or create a new leave bank. Employees who have previously exhausted their SPSL are not entitled to additional SPSL under this bill.

Did AB 152 Make Any Changes to SPSL?

Yes, under the prior version of SPSL, an employer could deny SPSL if the employee refused to submit documentation of a COVID test result. AB 152 expands this entitlement to allow employers to deny a request for SPSL if the employee refuses to submit to a COVID test at all.

The bill also authorizes the employer to require, if a COVID-19 diagnostic test is positive, the employee to submit to a second diagnostic test after 24 hours of taking the first test. Employers are required to provide both tests at no cost to the employee.

Is Government Aid Available to Assist Small Business with Providing SPSL?

Yes, this bill created the California Small Business and Nonprofit COVID-19 Relief Grant Program to assist qualified small businesses or nonprofits that  incur costs for COVID-19 SPSL. The program provides grants up to $50,000 to qualified small businesses and nonprofits., which include:: (1) businesses registered as a “C” corporation, “S” corporation, cooperative, limited liability company, partnership, or limited partnership and nonprofits registered as 501(c)(3), 501(c)(6), or 501(c)(19) organizations; (2) who began operating before June 1, 2021; (3) are currently active and operating; (4) have 26 to 49 employees; (5) have provided COVID-19 SPSL pursuant to the requirements of the Labor Code; and (6) provide the required documentation with their application.

 Is This SPSL Extension Final ?

Maybe not. Cal/OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) are set to expire December 31, 2022. However, Cal/OSHA has published a proposed rule that would extend the ETS through 2024. Yet, this rule is not final and Cal/OSHA does not have another meeting scheduled regarding the new rule. Employers should continue to comply with the current ETS through December 31, 2022 and monitor the status of the proposed ETS that may replace the current ETS to ensure compliance.

Did any other COVID Related Bills Pass?

Yes,  AB 2693 extends an employer’s statutory COVID-19 exposure notice requirements until January 1, 2024. Under the prior bill (AB 685), employers were required to provide written notice to employees and others who may have been exposed to COVID-19 in the workplace within one business day. AB 2693 allows an employer to satisfy the requirement by posting a notice of the COVID exposure in a prominent location where workplace rules and regulations are typically displayed. The notice should include the date and location of the confirmed COVID-19 exposure. There are record keeping requirements for the notice as well.

Additionally,  AB 1751 similarly extends the “rebuttable presumption” established for COVID-19 workers’ compensation benefits -19 to January 1, 2024. The rebuttable presumption is that certain COVID-19 exposures arose out of and in the course of the employment, and is compensable via the worker’s compensation system. Previous legislation (SB 1159) established a rebuttable presumption that some COVID-19 cases are work-related under certain outbreak circumstances and required employers to provide information about COVID-19 cases to their workers’ compensation claims administrator. AB 1751 extends these requirements until January 1, 2024.

Have Questions?

The attorneys at Duggan McHugh are available to help employers with any questions or compliance concerns they have regarding SPSL. Contact us to discuss.