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

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. Paid sick leave may be available to them while they recover at home. Provide workers with information on how they can request and use paid sick leave benefits.

If the exposure is work-related and employees are excluded from work, employers must maintain their pay by providing exclusion pay. The Labor Commissioner’s Office has more information on exclusion pay.

Employees should be excluded from the workplace in the following circumstances:

  • Employee tests positive for COVID-19.
  • All employees that develop symptoms, regardless of their vaccination status.

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

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 any authorized representatives within one business day (and notify any other employer who has potentially exposed employees in the workplace) of the time the employer knew of a COVID-19 case.
  • 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 the 14-day period in an outbreak, 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 requirements for preserving their pay and benefits.
  • Follow the return to work criteria for returning excluded employees to work. Follow the CDPH Guidelines for Isolation & Quarantine if those exclusion periods are shorter than those in the Cal/OSHA standards.

Cal/OSHA has a fact sheet on isolation and quarantine.

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.

Employers must implement a cleaning and disinfecting plan and include this plan in the notification of close contacts.

Return to Work Criteria After COVID-19 Illness or Close Contact

Employers must exclude from work COVID-19 cases and employees that have been in close contact with a COVID-19 case in the workplace.

A COVID-19 case may return to work when any of the following occur:

  • COVID-19 cases, regardless of vaccination status or previous infection, who do not develop COVID-19 symptoms or whose COVID-19 symptoms are resolving:
    • At least five days have passed from the date that COVID-19 symptoms began or, if the person does not develop COVID-19 symptoms, from the date of first positive COVID-19 test;
    • At least 24 hours have passed since a fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher has resolved without the use of fever reducing medications; and
    • A negative COVID-19 test from a specimen collected on the fifth day or later is obtained; or, if unable to test or the employer chooses not to require a test, 10 days have passed from the date that COVID-19 symptoms began or, if the person does not develop COVID-19 symptoms, from the date of first positive COVID-19 test.
  • COVID-19 cases, regardless of vaccination status or previous infection, whose COVID-19 symptoms are not resolving:
    • At least 24 hours have passed since a fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher has resolved without the use of fever-reducing medication; and
    • Symptoms are resolving or 10 days have passed from when the symptoms began.

Employers are required to review current CDPH guidance on Isolation and Quarantine for employees who had a close contact, and implement policies to prevent transmission of COVID-19 by people who had close contact. There may be different return-to-work criteria during critical staffing shortages for certain workplaces such as health care, emergency response, and some social service workers. Refer to the CDPH Guidelines for Isolation and Quarantine for Health Care Personnel.

May 2022