AB 685 was signed into law by Governor Newsom requires employers, beginning January 1, 2021, to notify employees who may have been exposed to COVID-19 and to report workplace outbreaks to the local health department. The law also requires the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to publicly report information on workplace outbreaks. Authorizes Cal/OSHA to enforce COVID-19 hazards as an imminent hazard to provide immediate protection for workers.
The CDPH recently published two documents, summarized below, to assist employers with complying with the requirements of AB 685. While AB 685 does not go into effect until January 1, 2021, the CDPH guidance can help employers prepare to implement the requirements now.
It’s important to note that current CPDH guidelines presently require employers to notify local health departments if there are 3 or more cases of COVID-19 in their workplace within a 2-week period. The guidance was updated on September 17, 2020, to include this notification requirement. This requirement is enforceable NOW via citation.
The current CPDH Guidance can be found at https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/Workplace-Outbreak-Employer-Guidance.aspx.
CDPH Guidance on AB 685
- Employer Questions about AB 685, California’s New COVID-19 Law
The guidance identifies the types of information that all employers must provide to employees with regard to COVID-19. This includes the following:
- Notice to your employees and the employer of subcontracted workers that they may have been exposed to COVID-19, as defined.
- Information about benefits & options
- A disinfection & safety plan
Under AB 685, employers are required to report COVID-19 cases to the local health department once the outbreak threshold has been met. An outbreak is defined as 3 or more COVID-19 cases among workers at the same worksite within a 14-day period. NOTE – Current CDPH’s guidance, “Responding to COVID-19 in the Workplace for Employers,” presently requires employers to notify local health departments if there are 3 or more cases of COVID-19 in their workplace within a 2-week period.
The guidance further explains what information employers must provide to the health departments, timeframes for reporting cases, and how the health departments and CDPH will use the information.
- Employer Guidance on AB 685 (https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/Employer-Guidance-on-AB-685-Definitions.aspx)
In its requirements for employers, AB 685 refers to terms “as defined by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).” This guidance includes a number of definitions to terms referenced in the law. Of note:
- Outbreak: At least three COVID-19 cases among workers at the same worksite within a 14-day period
- COVID-19 Case:
- Has a positive viral test for COVID-19,
- Is diagnosed with COVID-19 by a licensed health care provider,
- Is ordered to isolate for COVID-19 by a public health official, OR
- Dies due to COVID-19, as determined by a public health department.
- Infectious Period:
- For those who test positive with symptoms: 2 days before symptoms until 10 days after symptoms end AND 24 hours without a fever (no medication), AND “other symptoms have improved”.
- For those who test positive without symptoms – 2 days before submitting a positive test, and 10 days after the first positive test.
- Lab Confirmed Test: A positive result on any viral test for COVID-19. At this time, viral tests include nucleic acid (PCR) and antigen test.