I Want to Have a Safer and Healthier Workplace What COVID-19 laws should I be aware of?

California has updated laws and regulations to protect workers and to prevent the spread of COVID-19 infection at workplaces.

  • On December 15, 2022, Non-Emergency COVID-19 Prevention Regulations were adopted and will become effective in the month of January 2023 once approved by the Office of Administrative Law. The COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) remain in effect until the new regulations become effective. Read more about the non-emergency regulations and the ETS.
  • In addition to the ETS you should be aware of COVID-19 infection prevention and reporting requirements from AB 685:
    • Within one business day, employers must notify all employees, their authorized representative, and independent contractors and other employers at a worksite of potential exposures, COVID-19-related benefits and protections, and disinfection and safety measures that will be taken at the worksite in response to the potential exposure.
    • Employers must notify local public health agencies of all workplace outbreaks, which is defined as three or more laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases among employees who live in different households within a two-week period.
  • Additionally, AB 685 enhanced Cal/OSHA's ability to conduct enforcement:
    • From January 1, 2021 until January 1, 2023, Cal/OSHA can issue an Order Prohibiting Use (OPU) to shut down an entire worksite or a specific worksite area that exposes employees to an imminent hazard related to COVID-19.
    • From January 1, 2021 until January 1, 2023, Cal/OSHA can issue citations for serious violations related to COVID-19 without giving employers 15-day notice before issuance.
  • Workers' Compensation Presumption (SB 1159): This new law creates two rebuttable presumptions that COVID-19 illnesses contracted by specific categories of employees are work related and therefore eligible for workers' compensation, including medical treatment.
    • The first presumption applies to COVID-19 workers' compensation claims filed by peace officers, firefighters, first responders, and health care workers.
    • The second presumption, for employers with five or more employees, applies to employees who test positive for COVID-19 during an outbreak at the employee's specific place of employment. An outbreak occurs when a set number of employees – depending on the number of employees at the workplace – test positive for COVID-19 during a continuous 14-day period.
      • Employers are required to report all employee infections at a specific workplace to their workers' compensation insurer, regardless of whether the infection appears to be work related. 
      • This is a rebuttable presumption meaning that an employer can present evidence regarding measures they have taken to reduce potential transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace.
  • From January 1, 2022 to December 31, 2022, California required most employers to provide workers up to 80 hours of supplemental paid sick leave for COVID-19 reasons. Employers with 26 or more employees during this period had to provide this paid time off for workers who needed to stay home due to COVID-19 illness, exposure, caring for a family member, a COVID test or vaccine, recovering from side effects and more. If a worker took unpaid time off due to COVID-19 in 2022, they should be paid for these sick leave hours. More information is available in the Labor Commissioner's frequently asked questions.
  • Supplemental Paid Sick Leave (SPSL): In 2020, California authorized emergency COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave of up to 80 hours for most workers. The 2020 requirement expired on December 31, 2020. Another law, SB 95, authorized 2021 SPSL. The law went into effect on March 29 and was retroactive to January 1, 2021. The law required qualifying employees be provided up to 80 hours of supplemental paid sick leave if they are unable to work or telework due to specific COVID-19 reasons. The leave time also applied to getting a COVID-19 vaccine and recovering from symptoms related to the vaccine. 2021 SPSL is was in effect until September 30, 2021 for employers with 26 or more workers. Small businesses employing 25 or fewer workers were exempt from the law but may offer supplemental paid sick leave and receive a federal tax credit, if eligible. If your employees took unpaid time off due to COVID-19 before these laws expired, they might still be able to request pay after expiration.

December 2022