What am I required to do when an employee tests positive for COVID?
• Notify employees and employers of subcontracted employees who were on the same worksite as the worker diagnosed with COVID-19 during the infectious period in writing within one business day of the notice of potential exposure.
As Labor Code Section 6409.6 (a)(1) states: “Provide a written notice to all employees, and the employers of subcontracted employees, who were on the premises at the same worksite as the qualifying individual within the infectious period that they may have been exposed to COVID-19 in a manner the employer normally uses to communicate employment-related information. Written notice may include, but is not limited to, personal service, email, or text message if it can reasonably be anticipated to be received by the employee within one business day of sending and shall be in both English and the language understood by the majority of the employees.”
Do not provide the name or medical condition of the employee who tested positive.
For more information on this requirement, see the California Department of Public Health memo: “Employer Questions about AB 685, California’s New COVID-19 Law.”
• Notify your workers’ compensation carrier. Beginning on September 17, 2020, and going until January 1, 2023, California employers are required to notify their workers’ compensation carrier of any employee who tests positive for COVID within three business days. Employers who submit false or misleading information or fail to report may be subject to a civil penalty of up to $10,000.
The following information is required:
1) name of the employee who tested positive;
2) date of the positive test;
3) address where the employee works and where the employee worked during the 14 days preceding the date of the test;
4) highest number of employees who reported to work within the 45-day period immediately preceding the last date that the employee testing positive worked.
Other information that may be helpful for your carrier:
• Whether the employee was at a shared worksite or working remotely from home.
• Whether the employee thinks they were exposed at work from another employee or from a family member, friend, travel or social gathering.
• If the employee has been around anyone outside of work who is sick or tested positive, and whether the person who is sick or tested positive is under any isolation or quarantine order from a doctor.
The workers’ compensation carrier will then investigate whether the employee’s exposure was work-related.
• View and follow the most current information on the County Public Health Department website in the county where the work is performed.
COVID information that is posted includes requirements for masks, social distancing, isolation and quarantine times, and when an employee can report back to work. It is important to view and follow the most current information concerning isolation or quarantine times for an employee who has tested positive.
• View and follow the most current COVID information on the website of the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA).
In November 2020, Cal/OSHA put out an emergency regulation requiring that all employers create and maintain a COVID-19 Prevention Plan. A template for that plan can be obtained from Cal/OSHA’s website at here.
In addition, Cal OSHA has posted frequently asked questions (FAQs) interpreting its regulations. The COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards Frequently Asked Questions were last updated on January 24, 2022, and can be found at www.dir.ca.gov.
If you have questions about reporting positive tests for workers’ compensation purposes, contact your workers’ compensation carrier.
If you have questions about quarantine times, masks or testing, refer to your County Public Health Department and also Cal/OSHA.
For general questions, you may call the CalChamber Labor Law Helpline.
For specific questions about your situation and what you should do, contact your attorney.
The CalChamber posts updates from its blogs, podcasts and government sources, and keeps a list of county public health department websites at www.calchamber.com/coronavirus.
Column based on questions asked by callers on the Labor Law Helpline, a service to California Chamber of Commerce preferred and executive members. For expert explanations of labor laws and Cal/OSHA regulations, not legal counsel for specific situations, call (800) 348-2262 or submit your question at www.hrcalifornia.com.