California Releases ‘COVID-19 Employer Playbook for a Safe Reopening’

On July 24, 2020, the State of California released its “COVID-19 Employer Playbook for a Safe Reopening.” According to the playbook, its purpose is to help employers “plan and prepare for reopening their business[es] and to support a safe, clean environment for workers and customers.” The Employer Playbook’s table of contents lists four major areas that the playbook addresses: (1) steps employers can take to open safely; (2) what to do if a COVID-19 case occurs in the workplace; (3) enforcement and compliance; and (4) worker education. In addition, the playbook includes three appendixes consisting of employer and worker resources, enforcement and compliance contacts, and case studies illustrating the playbook’s principles.

California Issues Employer COVID-19 Playbook Guidance for Enforcing Mask Requirements

The State of California and many California counties mandate the use of face coverings in the workplace and elsewhere. California considers the issue important enough to include a section entitled “Guidance for Employers and Workers in Enforcing Mask Requirements” in its “COVID-19 Employer Playbook for a Safe Reopening,” newly released on July 24, 2020.

COVID-19 Detection Dogs in the Workplace: A Viable Option for Employers?

As employees return to work, some employers are asking if there could be another tool to detect COVID-19 in the workplace: detection dogs. Traditionally, the military has used detection dogs to find bombs, and law enforcement has used them to sniff out narcotics, guns, electronics, or other contraband. More recently, scientists and researchers have used detection dogs to identify medical conditions.

California COVID-19 Workers’ Compensation Presumption Expired on July 5, 2020—Will It Be Revived?

On May 6, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom of California issued Executive Order (EO) N-62-20, creating a temporary rebuttable presumption that employees working outside of their homes who test positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, may receive workers’ compensation benefits. In doing so, the governor simplified the process for sick employees to seek certain wage replacement benefits, and therefore sought to encourage ill employees to stay home to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

San Francisco’s COVID-19 Response: Emergency Back-to-Work Ordinance Requires Reemployment of Laid-Off Workers

On June 23, 2020, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed the “Back to Work” emergency ordinance. The ordinance requires certain San Francisco employers to offer reemployment to covered employees who were subjected to qualifying layoffs arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

California Judge Grants TRO Related to COVID-19 Risks at Fast-Food Restaurant

On June 16, 2020, several employees at a McDonald’s franchise in Oakland, California filed a lawsuit against their employer, in a matter entitled Hernandez v. VES McDonald’s (No. RG20064825, Superior Court of California, County of Alameda). The lawsuit consists of five plaintiffs, three of whom are employees who allege that they became sick with COVID-19 while working at the restaurant and “unknowingly” spread the disease to family and other members in their communities.

Ninth Circuit Rejects Plaintiffs’ Claims in Trio of ADA Disability Access Cases

In a big win for Starbucks and all other restauranteurs, retailers, and places of public accommodation, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held in three related cases (Johnson v. Starbuck Corp., Lindsay v. Starbucks Corp., and Kong v. Starbucks Corp.) that accessible sales and service counters are not required to provide a minimum of 36 inches of usable counter space for disabled patrons, provided that the counter is no more than 36 inches high.

California Issues Statewide Guidance for Mandatory Cloth Face Coverings

On June 18, 2020, the California Department of Public Health issued a statewide “Guidance for the Use of Face Coverings.” Although the guidance is not an executive order and does not refer to any authorizing legal authority, Governor Gavin Newsom tweeted, “NEW: Californians are now REQUIRED to wear face coverings in public spaces” (Emphasis in the original.)

California Governor Extends Wage Claim and Cal/OSHA Deadlines

In response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its continued impact on daily life, Governor Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order (EO) N-63-20 on May 7, 2020, extending certain statutory and regulatory deadlines for individuals, businesses, and governmental agencies in California. In addition to other temporary changes, EO N-63-20 extends the time for employees to file certain claims for unpaid wages with the state labor commissioner, the time for the state to issue certain workplace safety citations under the California Occupational Safety and Health Act, and the time for employers to appeal such citations.

Reading the Tea (or Cannabis) Leaves: California’s Trend Toward Recognizing a New Protected Class of Medical Cannabis Users

Although California was one of the first states to legalize medical cannabis, and later recreational cannabis, voters and the courts have long resisted extending protections against discrimination in employment to cannabis users. In 1996, California voters passed Proposition 215, also known as the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, legalizing the use of cannabis for medical purposes, such as the treatment of anorexia, arthritis, chronic pain, and migraines.

Cal/OSHA’s New COVID-19 Office Workspace Guidance Offers Cleaning and Distancing Protocols

On May 12, 2020, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH), better known as Cal/OSHA, issued its COVID-19 Industry Guidance: Office Workspaces, which provides detailed guidance for operating in office workspaces to “support a safe, clean environment for employees” in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

California Assembly Bill Would Give Employees More Time to File DLSE Complaints; Could Incentivize More Civil Litigation

Current California Labor Code Section 98.7 provides that any person who believes that he or she has been discharged from employment or otherwise discriminated against in violation of any law under the jurisdiction of the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) may file a complaint with the DLSE within six months after the occurrence of the alleged violation.

Cal/OSHA Issues COVID-19 Related Guidance for Dine-In Restaurants

On May 12, 2020, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) (better known as Cal/OSHA) issued its COVID-19 Industry Guidance: Dine-In Restaurants, which provides detailed guidance to dine-in restaurants, brewpubs, craft distilleries, breweries, bars, pubs, and wineries that provide sit-down meals on how to support safe and clean work environments for employees and customers.

California Supreme Court Decides Unfair Competition Claims for Civil Penalties Should Be Tried by a Court Rather Than a Jury

On April 30, 2020, the Supreme Court of California issued its decision in Nationwide Biweekly Administration, Inc. v. Superior Court of Alameda County, a case that received a fair amount of attention in 2019 when it seemed possible the court might allow claims under California Business & Professions Code Sections 17200 et seq. and 17500 et seq. (commonly called the unfair competition law (UCL)) to be tried by jury.

Cal/OSHA Issues Guidance for Logistics and Warehousing Facilities

On May 7, 2020, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH), better known as Cal/OSHA, issued its COVID-19 Industry Guidance: Logistics and Warehousing Facilities, which provides detailed guidance to logistics and warehouse facilities on how to support a safe and clean work environment for workers in order to avoid the outbreak and transmittal of COVID-19 in the workplace.

Ninth Circuit Issues a Positive Decision for Employers in the World of Background Checks

In recent years, California employers have faced an increasing number of class action lawsuits related to background check practices commonly used in the hiring process. These lawsuits arise from the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), a federal law that regulates the collection, dissemination, and use of consumer information.

Governor Newsom Announces COVID-19 Workers’ Compensation Presumption in Favor of Employees

During a May 6, 2020, press briefing, Governor Newsom announced his latest executive order addressing COVID-19 in the workplace. Executive Order N-62-20 creates a workers’ compensation rebuttable presumption that employees diagnosed with COVID-19 contracted the virus at work. This order will apply retroactively to employees who test positive for COVID-19 and have worked outside the home from March 19, 2020, until July 5, 2020 and is broadly worded to include “[a]ny COVID-19 related illness.”