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.

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.

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.

Oregon OSHA Releases Draft COVID-19 Temporary Standard

On August 17, 2020, the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Oregon OSHA), the state plan responsible for overseeing workplace safety and health in the state of Oregon, released a draft COVID-19 temporary standard. Following Virginia’s lead, Oregon will become the second state in the nation to adopt a specific standard intended to protect workers from COVID-19 exposure.

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.

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.

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.

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.”

COVID-19 Likely Responsible for Hike in OSHA “Fatality/Catastrophe” Investigations at Healthcare Facilities

Compared to the first three weeks of April in 2019, April 1, 2020, through April 21, 2020, had a 720 percent increase in healthcare facility inspections in the “Fatality/Catastrophe” category. A stunning increase from 5 inspections in 2019 to 36 in 2020 during the same three weeks. Those inspections include hospitals and other medical facilities. The inspection information does not include any information about COVID-19, however, the massive increase in the category of inspections has no other explanation than the present pandemic and workers who have fallen ill or succumbed after contracting the virus.

Healthcare Employers Facing OSHA Scrutiny During the COVID-19 Pandemic

As a result of COVID-19’s impact on the healthcare industry, both the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and state plans like California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (more commonly known as Cal/OSHA) are seeing a significant increase in complaints, inspections, and investigations of workplace illnesses and fatalities. Anecdotally, the healthcare industry, including nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities, hospitals, acute care services, and senior living facilities, appear to be facing a huge wave of regulatory inspections at a never-before-seen pace.

Cal/OSHA Issues COVID-19 Guidance for Agricultural Employers

On April 7, 2020, the California Department of Industrial Relations’ Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) issued COVID-19 Safety and Health Guidance (in English and Spanish) for agricultural employers. The guidance is not a new legal obligation but rather a reminder that COVID-19 is a workplace hazard to be addressed by an Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP).

New and Updated California Workplace Safety Regulations Expected in 2020

The California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board continues to have a multitude of draft regulations on its plate for this coming year. Employers and trade groups will have the opportunity to influence California’s new workplace safety regulations at the advisory committee level and by attending the monthly Standards Board meetings, which will occur throughout the state. Here we highlight some of the most critical updates for California employers.

Don’t Slip Up: When Are California Employers Required to Pay for Employees’ Shoes?

A hot-button issue in California is whether an employer is required to pay for or reimburse an employee for shoes that are required as a condition of employment. A recent ruling by the California Court of Appeal highlights the complexity of the issue and lack of concrete guidance on a critical question: whether California workplace safety law requires an employer to pay for nonspecialty safety shoes, such as generic steel-toe boots, that the employer allows the employee to wear off the jobsite.

Draft California Regulations for Nighttime Agricultural Operations Up for Vote at Standards Board

On April 18, 2019, the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board will consider an update to the regulations governing nighttime agriculture operations at its monthly meeting. In 2013, the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (or Cal/OSHA) asked for a revised regulation because of prior accidents or fatalities that occurred during the darkness of nighttime agriculture operations.

Federal Court Finds California’s New ABC Test Is Not Preempted, Applies to Trucking Industry

As California employers wait to see how the California legislature votes on independent contractor bills after the new ABC test was announced by the California Supreme Court last year, a recent federal case out of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California has received some attention in the transportation industry.