The California Department of Public Health Issues Employer Guidance on COVID-19 Reporting
Following the passage of two bills aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) recently provided California employers with some much needed guidance on key questions regarding notice and reporting requirements.
On September 17, 2020, Governor Newsom signed into law AB 685, which will require employers to notify workers of a potential COVID-19 exposure in the workplace and to notify local health departments if an outbreak has occurred. Although AB 685 does not go into effect until January 1, 2021, guidance recently published by the CDPH on October 16, 2020 makes it clear that California employers are already required to report workplace outbreaks to local health departments. This requirement was set forth in prior guidance that was amended the day after AB 685 was signed into law but was only recently published.
For employers outside of the healthcare industry, an outbreak is defined as three or more COVID-19 cases among workers at the same worksite within a 14-day period. Once an outbreak has occurred, employers have 48 hours to report it to the local health department in the jurisdiction where the worksite is located. Information reported should include the employer’s name, business address, and North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) industry code, as well as the names and occupations of workers with COVID-19. Employers are also required to notify the local health department of any additional COVID-19 cases identified among workers at the worksite. Under AB 685, a COVID-19 case is defined as someone who: (1) has a positive viral test for COVID-19; (2) is diagnosed with COVID-19 by a licensed health care provider; (3) is ordered to isolate for COVID-19 by a public health official; or (4) dies due to COVID-19, as determined by a public health department.
Note that although AB 685 allows Cal/OSHA to shut down a worksite that exposes employees to an imminent hazard related to COVID-19 and cite or fine employers who violate notice and reporting requirements, it is unclear whether or not these provisions are currently in effect. To minimize their potential liability, employers should work with counsel to ensure that their current notice and reporting practices are in compliance.
The full text of the CDPH’s October 16, 2020 guidance, titled Employer Questions about AB 685, California’s New COVID-19 Law, can be found on the Department’s website at https://www.cdph.ca.gov/.
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