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2021: New COVID-19 Laws & Regulations

by | Feb 11, 2021 | COVID-19 |


Taking effect 1 January 2021, Assembly Bill (AB) 685 establishes stringent COVID-19 recording and reporting requirements when employers receive notice of a potential COVID-19 exposure at the workplace. Among other things, AB 685 requires employers to provide multiple notices within one business day after receiving notice of a potential COVID-19 exposure:

  • Written notice to all employees and employers of subcontracted employees who were at the worksite within the infectious period;
  • Written notice to employee representatives, including unions and, in certain circumstances, attorneys who represent the affected employees;
  • Written notice regarding COVID-19-related benefits, including workers’ compensation benefits, COVID-19 leave, paid sick leave, and the company’s anti-discrimination, anti-harassment, and anti-retaliation policies; and
  • Written notice to employees regarding the company’s disinfection protocols and safety plan to eliminate any further exposures, per CDC guidelines.

Employers must also notify their local public health department within 48 hours if an “outbreak” occurs at the worksite (defined as three lab-confirmed cases within two weeks). The new law also authorizes the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) to immediately shut a business down without prior notice if it concludes there is an imminent risk of serious physical harm due to COVID-19, and to issue significant monetary citations for serious violations relating to COVID-19.

The law also requires employers to draft and implement a separate COVID-19 Pandemic Plan that addresses all COVID-19 exposures, identifies the way the employer intends to correct such exposures, and indicates how the employer will enforce its procedures, train its employees, conduct inspections, and review its plan for effectiveness.


Senate Bill (SB) 1159 creates a rebuttable presumption that an employee contracted COVID-19 at work if the employee tests positive within 14 days after reporting to his or her place of employment during an “outbreak” at the workplace in relation to workers’ compensation benefits. The bill defines a “specific place of employment” as “the building, store, facility, or agricultural field where an employee performs work at the employer’s direction,” and specifically does not include an employee’s residence if they are working at home.

This presumption exists for employees who suffer illness or death resulting from COVID-19 on or after July 6, 2020 through January 1, 2023. In addition, when the employer knows or reasonably should know that an employee has tested positive for COVID-19, the employer is also required to report to its claim’s administrator in writing within three business days.