SB 159: Workers’ Compensation; AB 685: Employee Exposure; and SB 1383: CFRA

Yesterday, Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law three important pieces of legislation, Senate Bill 1159 (SB 1159), Assembly Bill 685 (AB 685), and Senate Bill 1383 (SB 1383).  The new laws will: (1) expand access to workers’ compensation related to COVID-19; (2) provide employers with a specific procedure to follow in the event the employer learns of a potential exposure to COVID-19 among employees; and (3) modify and significantly expand the California Family Rights Act (CFRA).  Below is a summary of each new law:

SB 1159: Workers’ Compensation

Takes effect immediately and applies retroactively back to July 5, 2020.

  • If the employee tested positive between March 19 and July 5, the Governor’s executive order then in effect would likely control.

Establishes a presumption of compensability for employees who contract COVID-19 from any employer that experiences an “outbreak” of COVID-19 cases at a particular work location.  An outbreak is defined as follows:

  • Employers with 5-100 employees: 4 or more employees who worked at a specific work location contracted the disease within a 14-day period;
  • Employers with over 100 employees: 4% or more of the employees who worked at a specific work location contracted the disease within a 14-day period.

This presumption may be rebutted by evidence of measures in place to prevent transmission of COVID-19 and evidence of an employee’s nonoccupational exposure to COVID-19.

An employer with knowledge of an employee testing positive must report the following to its claims administrator within 30 business days of the effective date of the new law:

  • The date that the employee tested positive (date of the test, not of receiving the result).
  • The address or addresses of the employee’s place of employment during the 14-day period prior to the positive test.
  • The highest number of employees who reported to work at the employee’s specific place of employment in the 45 days prior to the last day the employee worked at each specific place of employment.

An employer who intentionally submits false or misleading information, or fails to submit required information, is subject to a civil penalty of up to $10,000.

The presumptions provided by the bill will sunset on January 1, 2023.

AB 685: Employee Exposure

If an employer receives notice of potential exposure to COVID-19 among its employees, the employer must take the following steps within one business day of receiving notice:

  • Provide written notice to all employees, and the employers of subcontracted employees, who were on the premises at the same worksite as the potentially infected individual within the infectious period informing them that they may have been exposed to COVID-19.
  • Provide all employees who may have been exposed with information on COVID-19-related benefits to which the employee may be entitled under applicable federal, state, or local laws.
  • Notify all employees, and the employers of subcontracted employees about the disinfection and safety plan that the employer plans to implement and complete per CDC guidelines.

Employers may not require employees to disclose medical information unless otherwise required by law.

Employers may not retaliate against a worker for disclosing a positive COVID-19 test, or diagnosis or order to quarantine or isolate.

The Division of Occupational Health and Safety (DOSH) may issue citations and civil penalties for violations of these requirements.

SB 1383: CFRA

Effective beginning January 1, 2021.

Expands the application of the CFRA to employers with five or more employees, as opposed to the current law which applies only to employers with 50 or more employees.

  • Millions of additional small business workers will be covered by the CFRA.

Expands CFRA to cover domestic partners, grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, and parents-in-law, and expands the definition of “child” to include the child of a domestic partner.

Expands the definition of family care and medical leave to include leave to care for a domestic partner, grandparent, grandchild or sibling with a serious health condition, as well as leave related to the active duty of an employee’s spouse, domestic partner, child, or parent in the United States military.