On the COVID-19 front, the State of California has been busy lately by enacting a new law regarding supplemental COVID-19 paid sick leave and issuing citations to employers that have failed to protect workers from COVID-19.
Supplemental COVID-19 Paid Sick Leave
On Wednesday, September 9, Governor Newsom signed Assembly Bill (“AB”) 1867 into law, which is effective immediately (no later than 10 days after enactment) as urgency legislation. The new law essentially seeks to fill the gap left by the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) (which only applies to private sector employers with fewer than 500 employees) by requiring private sector employers with 500 or more employees in the United States to provide up to 80 hours of supplemental paid sick leave in certain situations. AB 1867 also provides paid sick leave benefits for health care providers and emergency responders whose employers with less than 500 employees were permitted to be exempt from the FFCRA’s paid sick leave provisions. Additionally, the new law provides certain additional protections for food sector workers. Finally, the new law contains posting and paystub requirements. The full text of AB 1867 can be found here: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201920200AB1867.
California employers subject to AB 1867 need to become familiar with its requirements, update their policies and procedures as necessary, and make sure they are in compliance.
Cal/OSHA Issues COVID-19 Safety Citations
The State of California’s Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Occupational Safety and Health (better known as “Cal/OSHA”) is tasked with protecting the health and safety of employees. In a public press release issued on Friday, September 4, Cal/OSHA stated that it had cited 11 employers for failing to protect workers from COVID-19 because they “did not take steps to update their workplace safety plans to properly address hazards related to the virus.” The public press release can be found here: https://www.dir.ca.gov/DIRNews/2020/2020-76.html.
Cal/OSHA highlighted how a particular employer was cited because they “did not ensure their workers were physically distanced at least six feet apart in the processing area, nor did they install Plexiglas or other barriers between the workers.” Cal/OSHA assessed fines to the 11 employers in the range of $2,025 to $51,190. Interestingly, the investigation that resulted in the highest amount of fines being imposed was “complaint-initiated” – meaning an employee contacted Cal/OSHA – versus “accident-initiated,” such as an affirmative COVID-19 illness that occurred in the workplace and was reported to Cal/OSHA by the company as a serious illness. This is noteworthy because it emphasizes the fact that Cal/OSHA will not go easy on employers regarding their Injury and Illness Prevention Plan (“IIPP”) and COVID-19 workplace response plan simply because no actual injury or illness occurs.
The bottom line is this: California employers must use Cal/OSHA’s citations as a wake-up call to take COVID-19 precautions in the workplace seriously, and to review and update their IIPP and COVID-19 response plans as needed. Those employers that fail to do so face the risk of significant fines.
We will continue to monitor the developing pandemic situation in California and provide updates as appropriate.