What should you do when there is a workplace exposure? AB 685, which became effective on January 1, 2021, established strict recording and reporting requirements when employees are present at a worksite with a Qualifying Individual during an Infectious Period.* Generally, the law clarified an employer's obligation to provide employee notifications, notifications to the local public health department, and broadened Cal/OSHA’s ability to shut down workplaces and issue citations for serious workplace violations without a 15-day notice.
What Do I Have to Provide to My Employees?
AB 685 requires employers to provide written notice to all employees and employers of subcontracted employees who were present on the same worksite as a Qualifying Individual within an Infectious Period.
If the employee has an exclusive representative, such as an attorney or union, the employer must provide the exclusive representative with written notice which includes specific information regarding the possible exposure.
If an employer receives information about a potential exposure, they are required to provide employees with written notice within one (1) business day from the date the employer receives information regarding an exposure. The notice must include:
Information regarding COVID-19 benefits which the individual may be entitled to;
Notification of potential Workers Compensation benefits;
applicable COVID-19 leave;
Applicable information relating to paid sick leave;
A description of the company’s disinfection protocols and safety measures which are being taken to minimize future exposures at the worksite; and
Information regarding the company’s anti-discrimination, anti-harassment, and anti-retaliation policies.
The employee notice must be provided in a form which is typically used to communicate with employees including personal delivery, email, text message, internal messaging systems, or the like so long as the notice is reasonably believed to be received within one (1) business day. AB 685 requires employers to provide the notice in English and any other language which is understood by the majority of employees in the workplace.
When Do I Report to Local Public Health Agencies?
AB 685 requires employers to notify their local public health department within 48 hours if a worksite experiences an outbreak. The notification must include the names, number, and occupation of employees as well as the NAICS industry code and worksite address where the Qualifying Individual(s) work. Employers who report outbreaks to the local public health department must continue to report subsequent laboratory confirmed cases which occur after the initial notification.
Notably, Health Facilities are exempt from AB 685 and should follow California Department of Public Health reporting guidelines when responding to workplace outbreaks.**
Can I Get Assistance?
New laws can be daunting as they intertwine with related guidelines, orders, or statutes. The unique facts and circumstances of each workplace can add to the burden of Human Resources Departments as unique situations can alter the application in a particular matter. If questions or concerns arise, you can contact Bellmeyer Law to obtain assistance in preparing employee notices or outbreak reports.
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*AB 685, available as of February 4, 2021 at: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201920200AB685
**California Department of Public Health Outbreak and Reporting Thresholds, available as of February 4, 2021 at: https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CHCQ/LCP/Pages/AFL-20-75.aspx