Governor Newsom Signs Bills To Protect Workers During Pandemic
Governor Gavin Newsom signed two bills on Thursday intended to protect California workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, AB 685 and SB 1159.
“Protecting workers is critical to slowing the spread of this virus,” said Newsom. “These two laws will help California workers stay safe at work and get the support they need if they are exposed to COVID-19.”
AB 685 obligates employers to tell employees, unions and subcontractors about potential COVID-19 workplace exposures from qualifying individuals within one business day of knowing of them. It enacts California Labor Code Section 6409.6 and amends other statutes.
“In the age of COVID-19 our essential workers risk their lives and the lives of their loved ones in our fields, hospitals, grocery stores, meatpacking plants, restaurant kitchens and countless other businesses in our state,” said Assemblymember Eloise Reyes, author of AB 685. “By notifying the public and workers of potential exposures as required under AB 685 we allow workers to take appropriate steps to protect themselves and their loved ones while also bolstering the response of public health officials.”
Employers must now provide notice when people who meet one of the following conditions may have exposed the workplace to the virus:
• The person has been lab-confirmed to be COVID-19-positive;
• The person has been diagnosed with COVID-19 by a licensed healthcare provider;
• An isolation order has been issued on the person by a public health official;
• The person died from COVID-19.
Employers must not reveal the names of qualifying individuals to employees or subcontracted employers, as that information is protected by state and federal law.
The bill also requires employers to notify public health officials of any COVID-19 outbreaks within 48 hours.
SB 1159 expands workers’ compensation access by removing burdens of access to workers’ compensation for front-line workers like healthcare workers, firefighters and peace officers who probably got infected at work, as well as for workers in workplaces with an outbreak over a 14-day time frame.
“I thank the Governor, my colleagues in the Legislature, and the many stakeholders who worked with us on SB 1159 to improve the lives of the Californians who are working to keep our state, our economy and our communities operating. These workers help all of us meet the incredible challenges we face today,” said Senator Jerry Hill, author of SB 1159. “For more than 100 years, California has stood for worker safety. In signing SB 1159, Governor Newsom underscores and reinforces that commitment by ensuring vulnerable workers are not left out in the cold.”