A Worker May Be Sick or Exposed to COVID-19 What are COVID-19 symptoms and what do I need to do if an employee is sick or exposed?

Ensure that workers know the symptoms of COVID-19 and encourage them to stay home if they have any of the following:

  • Fever (Temperature greater than 100.4F)
  • Cough
  • Chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Recent loss of taste or smell
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Congestion or runny nose

Read more on California's website for COVID-19 Symptoms and Facts.

You should encourage employees to let supervisors know if they think they have been in close contact with a COVID-19 case or if they have symptoms. Workers should stay home unless they need medical care. Employers must provide at least 5 days or 40 hours of paid sick leave per year to their employees in California. Provide workers with information on how they can request and use paid sick leave benefits.

Employees infected with COVID-19 and have symptoms must be excluded from the workplace as follows:

  • Until 24 hours have passed with no fever, without the use of fever-reducing medications, AND
  • Their symptoms are mild and improving.

Employees infected with COVID-19 who do not have symptoms do not need to be excluded. If symptoms develop, the criteria above will apply.

Note that for employees that have close contact with others who are COVID-19-positive during the infectious period, employers must review current CDPH and local health department COVID-19 orders and guidance.

You must investigate and respond to a COVID-19 case or close contact in the workplace by doing the following:

  • Determine when the COVID-19 case was last in the workplace, and if possible the date of testing and onset of symptoms.
  • Determine which employees may have been in close contact to the COVID-19 case (within six feet for cumulative total of 15 minutes or greater within a 24-hour period within the infectious period).
  • Notify employees and independent contractors as soon as possible, but no longer than the time to ensure any exclusion requirements are met (and notify any other employer who has potentially exposed employees in the workplace).
  • Employers must offer COVID-19 testing at no cost to employees during paid time to all employees who had close contact in the workplace, except for returned cases.
  • Testing must also be provided for employees in an exposed group:
    • All employees present during an outbreak as defined by CDPH, except returned cases who did not develop symptoms after returning to work.
    • All employees in a major outbreak.
  • Investigate the exposure and determine whether workplace conditions could have contributed to the risk of exposure, and what hazard corrections would reduce exposure.
  • Follow all recordkeeping and reporting requirements for employee COVID-19 cases.
  • Exclude from the workplace COVID-19 cases and employees who develop symptoms until they are allowed to return to work.
  • Follow the return to work criteria for returning excluded employees to work. Follow the CDPH Guidelines for Isolation if those exclusion periods are shorter than those in the Cal/OSHA standards.

Employers must record work-related COVID-19 cases in their injury and illnesses logs. You must report information about COVID-19 cases and outbreaks at the workplace to the local health department whenever required by law. You must also notify Cal/OSHA right away when there is a serious illness or fatality related to COVID-19. Read Cal/OSHA's FAQs on recording and reporting COVID-19 cases.

Cal/OSHA FAQs on COVID-19 prevention requirements

January 2024