Today, Governor Gavin Newsom signed a pair of COVID-19 worker protection bills into law.
SB 1159 creates a new “disputable presumption” that an employee’s illness or death due to COVID-19 is work-related on or after July 6, 2020, through January 1, 2023. The emergency legislation takes effect immediately.
AB 685 requires employers notify employees within one business day and public health officials within 48 hours of a potential COVID-19 exposure in the workplace. It also strengthens Cal/OSHA ‘s enforcement powers, including the power to shut down a worksite that the Division’s deems to subject workers to an “imminent hazard” of COVID-19 exposure.
An employer may dispute the presumption created by SB 1159 with evidence such as measures in place to reduce potential transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace, the employee’s nonoccupational risks of COVID-19 infection, and such other evidence that may be used to dispute a work-related injury.
The presumption under SB 1159 applies to all employees who test positive during an “outbreak” at the employee’s specific work location, and whose employer has five or more employees. An injury for purposes of the law includes illness or death resulting from COVID-19 and the following conditions apply:
- The employee tests positive for COVID-19 within 14 days after a day that the employee performed labor or services at the employee’s place of employment (excluding the employee’s home) at the employer’s direction.
- The day on which the employee performed labor or services at the employee’s place of employment at the employer’s direction was on or after July 6, 2020. The date of injury must be the last date the employee performed labor or services at the employee’s place of employment at the employer’s direction before the positive test.
- The employee’s positive test occurred during a period of an outbreak at the employee’s specific place of employment.
An “outbreak” is deemed to exist if, within 14 calendar days, one of the following occurs at a specific place of employment:
- If the employer has 100 employees or fewer at a specific place of employment, 4 employees test positive for COVID-19;
- If the employer has more than 100 employees at a specific place of employment, 4 percent of the number of employees who reported to the specific place of employment, test positive for COVID-19; or
- A specific place of employment is ordered to close by a local or state public health department or Cal/OSHA due to a risk of infection with COVID-19.
Although not addressed in the bill, an employee who tested positive between March 19 and July 5, 2020 (i.e., when Governor Newsom’s executive order was in effect), would presumably fall under the executive order rather than SB 1159.
Employers are advised to train the appropriate staff on the new obligations created by these laws