A new law regarding businesses operating in California will come into effect on Jan. 1, 2021. Like the various rules around the country, both at the federal, state and local level, California Assembly Bill 685 is aimed at protecting public health during the pandemic.
In short, the bill covers new disclosure requirements regarding exposure to the COVID-19 virus (also called novel coronavirus and SARS-CoV-2). The law covers exposure at a worksite — including offices, farms, athletic facilities and factories — to a person who was officially diagnosed with COVID-19 by a doctor or public health agency. This includes workers who are diagnosed after death due to COVID-19.
The reporting requirements do not apply to someone who was showing symptoms, but who tested negative for the disease.
Failure to comply may result in civil penalties and citations.
As the regulations regarding the COVID-19 pandemic keep changing, we strive to keep businesses and enterprises informed about how to comply with the law. The facts of the regulations, the timing of them, and who will be impacted are frequently adapting. We recognize that they will continue to change as we learn more about the infectious virus, and will change once again once (hopefully) a vaccine is developed.
A communications strategy is a must for every employer so that each office, each branch and each manager knows what to do if someone tests positive.
A brief summary of the requirements of California AB 685, which falls under the California Occupational Safety and Health Act (Cal/OSHA). Notifications are to be sent by employers within one business day of a COVID exposure:
- Employers must provide written notice of potential exposure within one day of knowledge of exposure to a diagnosed positive case.
- Written notice to employees including contractors or vendors present at the worksite in question on the date of exposure.
- Written notice to employee representatives, such as unions.
- Written notice to employees regarding benefits related to COVID-19. This includes notification of their rights against retaliation for reporting their positive case.
- All written notices — including email, text message, or personal delivery — are acceptable as long as affected workers can reasonably expect to receive such notices. Records of the notices need to be kept for three years.
- The notices need to be in English, and any other language understood by the majority of the employees.