Cal/OSHA Emergency Workplace COVID-19 Regulation: 10 Frequently Asked Questions

On November 19, 2020, the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board voted and approved an emergency COVID-19 regulation governing employers and workplaces. That regulation is scheduled for adoption and implementation on November 30, 2020. Below are answers to some frequently asked questions that employers have expressed about the new emergency regulation.

Cal/OSHA’s Emergency Standard and Its New Mandatory COVID-19 Paid Time Off Provision

On November 19, 2020, the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board, the standards-setting agency of the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA), adopted an emergency standard regarding COVID-19 workplace prevention. The Standards Board submitted the new final rule to the Office of Administrative Law, which may approve the rule within as few as 10 days. This means employers may have to comply with the emergency standard as soon as Monday, November 30, 2020.

Time to Vote: Employee and Employer Voting Leave Rights and Obligations for the 2020 Elections

Elections in the United States are scheduled for Tuesday, November 3, 2020. Not only will the office of president of the United States be contested, but all 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and 35 of the 100 seats in the U.S. Senate are up for grabs. At the state level, elections will be held for the governorships of 11 U.S. states and 2 U.S. territories.

California Expands Entitlement to Leave for Crime Victims

On September 28, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill (AB) 2992, which amends California Labor Code Sections 230 and 230.1 and prohibits an employer from “discharging, or discriminating or retaliating against, an employee who is a victim of crime or abuse[,] for taking time off from work to obtain or attempt to obtain relief.”

California’s New AB 1512 Revises Security Officer Rest Period Rules

On September 30, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill (AB) 1512, which amends California Labor Code Section 226.7 by authorizing employers to require certain unionized private security officers “to remain on the premises during rest periods and to remain on call, and carry and monitor a communication device, during rest periods.”

AB 2257 Enacts Significant Changes to AB 5 on Classification of Workers as Independent Contractors

California’s statute governing the classification of independent contractors, enacted under Assembly Bill (AB) 5, underwent a significant renovation on September 4, 2020, when Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 2257. The emergency measure, which takes effect immediately, contains several new exemptions and revises existing law related to exemptions for business-to-business relationships, referral agencies, professional services, and performance artists, among others.

New California Pay Data Collection Law Establishes March 31 Reporting Deadline

On September 30, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed California Senate Bill 973 into law as Government Code Title 2, Division 3, Part 2.8, Chapter 10, § 12999. The bill authored by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (Santa Barbara) is titled “Employers: annual report: pay data,” and it states that while “progress [has been] made in California in recent years to strengthen California’s equal pay laws,” there is still a significant gender pay gap and for women of color that pay gap is greater. To address these pay issues, the California Government Code’s new section 12999 requires pay data reports from covered employers and delegates additional powers to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing relating to the new pay data reporting requirement. Section 12999 requires covered employers to file pay data reports no later than March 31, 2021, and on or before every March 31 thereafter.

Sacramento City and County Now Have COVID-19–Related Supplemental Paid Sick Leave Laws

On September 1, 2020, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors passed the Sacramento County Worker Protection, Health, and Safety Act of 2020. The county appears to have modeled its new law on the City of Sacramento’s own recent Worker Protection, Health, and Safety Act (WPHSA), which the city enacted on June 30, 2020. The two laws are nearly identical, providing employees with paid sick leave for certain COVID-19–related reasons, allowing workers to refuse to work in certain situations, and prohibiting employer retaliation. Here are answers to some several frequently asked questions about the measures.

New California Family Rights Act Dramatically Expands Employee Rights and Employer Responsibilities

On September 17, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill No. 1383, which repealed the current California Family Rights Act (CFRA) and eliminated the California New Parent Leave Act, replacing those statutes with a new CFRA, which can be found at California Government Code Section 12945.2, et seq.

Employers, Don’t Let Your Guard Down: COVID-19–Related Employment Lawsuits Are in Full Swing

We previously reported on COVID-19–related employment lawsuits that we tracked from late March 2020 through early May 2020. Since then, the number of lawsuits has steadily risen as employers have resumed operations after shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders were lifted and students returned to school in virtual or hybrid environments. To track this litigation and to identify trends, we developed an Interactive COVID-19 Litigation Tracker that details where COVID-19–related litigation is taking place by state, the industries affected, and the types of claims asserted against employers and educational institutions.

Cal/OSHA Standards Board to Draft and Adopt COVID-19 Safety Standard

On September 17, 2020, the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board of the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) voted unanimously to pursue the drafting and adoption of a California COVID-19 safety regulation. The emergency regulation would cover all workers in California regardless of industry segment.

New California Labor Code Section 6409.6 Imposes COVID-19 Workplace Exposure Notice Requirements

On September 17, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill (AB) 685 into law, enacting California Labor Code Section 6409.6 and amending other state statutes. As explained further below, Section 6409.6 obligates employers to notify employees, the employees’ exclusive representative (such as a union), and subcontractors, within one business day of an employer’s receiving notice of a potential COVID-19 workplace exposure from a “qualifying individual.”

California Implements New COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave Requirement

On September 9, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law Assembly Bill (AB) 1867, which requires large employers and some health care providers to provide up to 80 hours of paid leave for COVID-19–related reasons. The new law also codifies the governor’s previously issued executive order setting forth paid sick leave and handwashing requirements for food sector workers, creates a small business family leave mediation pilot program, and addresses enforcement issues in California’s pre-COVID-19 paid sick leave law.

San Mateo County Approves Supplemental Paid Sick Leave Ordinance to Assist Employees Impacted by COVID-19

On July 7, 2020, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors adopted an emergency ordinance to establish supplemental paid sick leave for COVID-19 related reasons. The ordinance took effect on July 8, 2020, and will remain in effect through December 31, 2020. It applies only to unincorporated areas of San Mateo County, California.

Ninth Circuit Gives California Employers a Break in Defending Rest Period Claims

In Davidson v. O’Reilly Auto Enterprises, LLC, No. 18-56188 (August 3, 2020), the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals addressed whether a district court abused its discretion in denying class certification for an employee’s claim for improper rest breaks under California law where the employer allegedly had a facially defective written rest break policy.

Cal/OSHA Recommends Emergency COVID-19 Regulation With PPE and Training Provisions

On May 20, 2020, worker advocates submitted a petition for an emergency COVID-19 safety standard demanding additional COVID-19 regulations for those employees not covered by the Aerosol Transmissible Diseases (ATD) standard . The ATD standard was codified in 2009 “to protect employees who are at increased risk of contracting certain airborne infections due to their work activities.” The petition included specific requests to adopt standards related to social distancing, ventilation systems, personal hygiene, personal protective equipment (PPE), employee training, and recordkeeping.

San Francisco Issues Guidance on COVID-19 ‘Temporary Right to Reemployment’ Ordinance

On August 7, 2020, the San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) published guidance regarding the City of San Francisco’s “Temporary Right to Reemployment Following Layoff Due to COVID-19 Pandemic Emergency Ordinance.” Also known as the “Back to Work” emergency ordinance, the ordinance took effect on July 3, 2020, requiring San Francisco employers with 100 or more employees to offer reemployment to eligible employees laid off because of the COVID-19 pandemic when the employers rehire for the same or similar job classifications.

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.