If Someone at Work has Covid
Businesses have been permitted to reopen amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, thereby facing new workplace hurdles. In addition to the usual employment laws, employers must reduce the risk of exposure in the workplace. California has required employees to give employees notice of potential exposure if they are notified of any cases. If the employers fail to notify their employees of a potential exposure, they risk a fine of $10,000.
This new requirement to notify employees of Covid-19 exposure has been introduced in AB-685. The CDC had previously recommended employers notify their employees, but it was not mandatory. This bill also allows health services to better track exposure in the workplace as employers must also notify a local public health authority. The California government hopes to use the data gleaned from this reporting to reduce the increase in infection and deaths from Covid-19 in the Black and Latino populations.
What Should I Do If One Of My Employees Is Suspected Or Confirmed To Have Covid-19
According to the CDC
In most cases, you do not need to shut down your facility. But do close off any areas used for prolonged periods of time by the sick person: Wait 24 hours before cleaning and disinfecting to minimize potential for other employees being exposed to respiratory droplets. If waiting 24 hours is not feasible, wait as long as possible. During this waiting period, open outside doors and windows to increase air circulation in these areas.
Employer Covid-19 Notice Law: AB-685
This bill will be part of the occupational safety section of the Labor Code. A number of recent changes have been made to provide provisions to protect employees during the coronavirus pandemic.
Under AB-685, employers who are informed of a potential Covid-19 exposure are required to take the following actions in one business day of the notice:
- Notify all workers in the worksite where coronavirus occurred that they were potentially exposed. The notice must be given in writing and in English, and the language understood by the majority of the workers.
- Provide the exclusive representative with a Cal/OSHA Form 300 injury and illness log. The employer must provide all applicable information they are aware of.
- Notify both the representatives and employees of the options for exposed workers such as sick leave, workers’ compensation, covid-19 policy benefits, and anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation protections.
- Notify both the employees and representatives of the employer’s disinfecting and cleaning plan. The employer should follow CDC guidelines for disinfecting the workplace.
- Provide notice to the local health agency of the outbreak. This notice must include the workplace, the number of employees, who have tested positive, been asked to isolate, or have died from Covid-19, and their names and occupation.
The employee is also protected under AB-685 from employers requesting medical information that is not required by law. They are also protected from employer retaliation after a positive Covid-19 test or isolation order. AB-685 also protects employee’s identification information from being shared in relation to their Covid-19 diagnosis or isolation order.
Does Workers Comp Cover Covid in California?
If an employer fails to protect their employees as per AB-685, they face criminal charges, fines, and civil lawsuits from employees. Employers should ensure their insurance covers them for any costly litigation that may occur. Covid-19 related claims may be covered by the following sources:
Workers’ Compensation Insurance
Workers’ compensation is paid for by employers and provides workers and their families with medical benefits, wage coverage, and death benefits for work-related illness and injury. Employees who do not work from home may claim workers’ compensation benefits if they contract covid-19. However, the burden is on the employee to show causation.
Employer’s Liability Insurance
Workers’ compensation insurance has a few exceptions, including:
- Employer assault
- Fraudulent concealment
- Employer ratification
- Uninsured employer
- Power press
If the Covid-19 claim is not covered by workers’ compensation for any reason, then the employer might be covered by an employer’s liability insurance. This usually covers the excess of workers’ compensation and defense costs in employment lawsuits.
Does Employer Liability Insurance Cover Covid
If an employee files a lawsuit against an employer for not fulfilling AB-685 requirements, the employer may be covered for defense costs by EPLI. One of EPLI’s exclusions is bodily injury, so the employer would not be covered for any injuries the employee suffered because they contracted the virus.
Stay Up to Date with Emerging Legislation
New legislation is being passed to deal with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is imperative that employers stay up to date with the new legislation and make the required changes. This pandemic is likely to shape the future of workplace health and safety policy.