With the easing of some government COVID-19 measures, it seems that employers no longer have to worry about the requirements imposed over the past two years. On the contrary, the California legislature has created a number of new laws related to COVID-19 that may affect California employers:
- Assembly Bill 152 extends the COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave (SPSL), which was scheduled to expire on September 30, 2022, through December 31, 2022. That means California employers with 26 or more employees must continue to provide certain conditions for COVID-19 -19-Contingent Circumstances up to 80 hours SPSL for a full-time employee or for a part-time employee up to the number of hours worked over two weeks. In addition, AB 152 allows employers to require additional testing on or after the fifth day after the first positive test. If the test is positive, the employer can request a second diagnostic test within at least 24 hours. Such tests must be made available to the employee free of charge. If an employee refuses either test, the employer may refuse additional SPSLs. AB 152 came into effect immediately.
- Assembly Bill 1751 extends until January 1, 2024 a rebuttable presumption established by previous law that certain COVID-19 cases are work-related in certain circumstances of the outbreak. AB 1751 also extends until January 1, 2024 certain worker’s compensation benefits for individuals who meet COVID-19 injury requirements and requires employers to provide information about COVID-19 cases to their worker’s compensation claims administrator.
- Unlike the above statutes, Assembly Bill 2693 relaxes a COVID-19-related employer obligation. Effective January 1, 2023, instead of providing individual notification, employers may fulfill their reporting obligations of potential COVID-19 exposure by prominently posting a potential exposure notification for 15 days. The notice must be posted at the workplace location where other workplace rules are normally posted, and employers must keep a record of all dates on which the notice was posted. Another new relaxed standard is that employers are no longer required to notify their local county health departments of a COVID-19 outbreak. However, AB 2693 extends until January 1, 2024 the power of the Department of Occupational Safety and Health to prohibit the performance of an operation or entry into that workplace if, in its opinion, a workplace exposes workers to the risk of contracting COVID-19 such that an immediate there is a risk for the workers.
- The Cal/OSHA Standards Board (Board) COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) is subject to change to a non-emergency standard that would remain in effect through December 31, 2024. On September 15, 2022, the Board held a public hearing to consider moving to a proposed non-emergency COVID-19 standard that would become effective December 31, 2023, when the current standard expires. Many employers’ representatives expressed their opposition to any non-emergency standard after the current ETS expires and that the two-year duration of the proposed standard is arbitrary. The Board is expected to hold a vote to approve a final version of a non-emergency COVID-19 regulation before the current ETS expires.
The author would like to thank Joanne Warriner for the support.