Employers

COVID-19 Workplace Requirements Employers Need to Know

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As the pandemic presents new challenges in health and the workplace, employers must take steps to protect their workers and business from COVID-19. Use the resources available here to learn about COVID-19 workplace requirements such as safety procedures, training for employees on infection prevention, and what to do in case of an infection or outbreak.

I want to have a safer and healthier workplace

A worker may be sick or exposed to COVID-19

COVID-19 Employer Portal

Voluntary N95 Distribution

Training & Resources

COVID-19 Vaccines in the Workplace

Independent Contractor / Worker Misclassification

Who to Contact

COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards

Wildfire Smoke and Heat Illness

 

COVID-19 Employer Portal

The employer portal is a one-stop hub for California employers to quickly find up-to-date state and local county COVID-19 guidance by business industry.

 

Vaccines in the workplace

May an employer require its employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19?

Under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), an employer may require employees to receive an FDA-approved vaccination against COVID-19 infection so long as the employer does not discriminate against or harass employees or job applicants on the basis of a protected characteristic, provides reasonable accommodations related to disability or sincerely-held religious beliefs or practices, and does not retaliate against anyone for engaging in protected activity (such as requesting a reasonable accommodation).

Department of Fair Employment and Housing Information on COVID-19 regarding Vaccinations

May a business require customers to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 and/or proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test before permitting entry into the business?

Yes, the Unruh Civil Rights Act permits businesses to implement rules that protect employees and customers from COVID-19 infection. Please note that the business can’t ask only certain type of customers to show proof of vaccination and/or a recent negative COVID-19 test if it’s done so based on a personal characteristic protected by the Unruh Civil Rights Act. Please consult DFEH’s Guidance regarding COVID-19 safety measures and reasonable accommodations for important information about reasonable accommodations as well.

Is an employer required to compensate a worker for the time spent obtaining a COVID-19 test or vaccination?

If the employer requires an employee to obtain a COVID-19 test or vaccination (see Department of Fair Employment and Housing FAQs for guidance on the types of COVID-19 tests an employer may require and on vaccination), then the employer must pay for the time it takes for the testing or vaccination, including travel time.

The employer must pay for the time it takes for testing or vaccination because such time would constitute “hours worked.” The term “hours worked” means the time during which a worker is subject to the control of an employer, and includes all the time the worker is suffered or permitted to work, whether or not required to do so. Under this definition, one way to determine whether time a worker spends performing a task must be paid as time worked is whether the employer exercised control over the worker by requiring the worker to perform that task. If an employer requires that a worker obtain a medical test or vaccination, the time associated with completing the medical test or vaccination, including any time traveling and waiting for the test or vaccination to be performed, would constitute time worked. However, unless otherwise required, the time spent waiting for COVID-19 test results is not compensable as hours worked, although the worker may be able to utilize paid leave while waiting for the results.

An employer cannot require the worker to utilize paid leave if the time is considered “hours worked” as referenced above.
If the time is not considered “hours worked,” the worker may be able to utilize the worker’s paid leave for time off from work to obtain testing or vaccination. Regular paid sick leave may be used for preventive care, which includes medical testing and vaccines, for the employee or the employee’s family members, and is protected against retaliation under the Labor Code.

Are employees allowed to know if their coworkers have not been vaccinated?

Any record of employee or applicant vaccination must be maintained as a confidential medical record.

Who is eligible for booster vaccinations?

Please see CDPH’s COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Questions and Answers for the latest list of eligible groups.

When should I receive a booster dose?

Everyone aged 12 and older should receive a first booster dose following completion of their primary vaccine series. You may receive the booster dose of your choice, but mRNA COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer or Moderna) are preferred over the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

The following groups may receive a second booster dose of an mRNA vaccine four months after completion of their first booster dose: Those aged 50 and older; If immunocompromised, those aged 12 and older; Those aged 18-49 who received two doses of Johnson & Johnson.

For more information on booster vaccinations, please see CDPH’s COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Questions and Answers.

 

Which vaccines are covered by the emergency use authorization for booster doses?

All three widely available COVID-19 vaccines have been granted an extended EUA to allow for booster vaccine doses for specific populations, but mRNA COVID-19 vaccines (Pfizer or Moderna) are preferred over the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

For more information on booster vaccinations, please see CDPH’s COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Questions and Answers.

 

Where can I learn more about vaccine boosters?

Please see CDPH’s COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Questions and Answers for the latest information on boosters.

 

 

Where can I get a digital copy of my COVID-19 vaccine record?

You can now get a digital copy of your vaccination record. It’s available to you if:

  • You got vaccinated in California, and 
  • Your information matches what is recorded in the state’s immunization systems.  

To get your vaccine record:

Can I get vaccinated against COVID-19 while I am currently sick with COVID-19?

No. Wait until you have recovered and have met the criteria for ending isolation. This guidance also applies to people who get COVID-19 between their first and second dose.

For more information on COVID19 vaccines, please visit covid19.ca.gov/vaccines/

COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards

What is the status of the ETS?

The COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards are still in effect. The workplace standards were updated in May 2022. The revisions are in effect until December 31, 2022. More information on the COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards is available in Cal/OSHA's Frequently Asked Questions.

 

Who is affected by the ETS?

The ETS applies to all employers, employees, and to all places of employment with the following exceptions:

  • Work locations where there is only one employee who does not have contact with other people.
  • Employees who are working from home.
  • Employees who are covered by the Aerosol Transmissible Diseases regulation.
  • Employees working from a location chosen by the employee, which is not under the control of the employer (for instance, an employee teleworking from a café or a friend’s home)

Learn more about the ETS scope of coverage.

Are all physical distancing requirements in the revised ETS gone?

There are no physical distancing or barrier requirements in the workplace regardless of employee vaccination status with the following exceptions:

  • During an outbreak (three or more employees in an exposed group), employers are required to evaluate whether physical distancing is necessary to control the transmission of COVID-19.
  • Physical distancing must be used in a major outbreak (20 or more employees in an exposed group) for all employees, regardless of vaccination status except when an employer demonstrates that maintaining six feet of distance is not feasible. When it is not feasible to maintain six feet of distance, persons must be as far apart as feasible.
  • Employers are under an ongoing requirement to assess workplace hazards and implement controls to prevent transmission of disease. There may be circumstances in which employers determine that physical distancing is necessary in their workplace.

As described above, physical distancing is sometimes required, for a limited period. More information is available on Cal/OSHA's ETS page.

Can an employer ask to see vaccine documentation?

Yes. As explained by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, because the reasons that any given employee or applicant is not vaccinated may or may not be related to disability or religious creed, simply asking employees or applicants for proof of vaccination is not a disability-related inquiry, religious creed-related inquiry, or a medical examination. Employers may wish to instruct their employees or applicants to omit any medical information from such documentation. Any record of employee or applicant vaccination must be maintained as a confidential medical record.

Under the ETS, an employer is not obligated to require employees to submit proof of being fully vaccinated.

Visit the ETS FAQs to learn more.

Who has to wear face coverings?

Employers must provide face coverings and ensure they are worn when required by orders from the CDPH. CDPH requires that all workers in the following sectors wear face coverings indoors:

  • Emergency shelters and cooling and heating centers
  • Healthcare settings (applies to all healthcare settings, including those that are not covered by the State Health Officer Order issued on July 26, 2021)
  • State and local correctional facilities and detention centers
  • Homeless shelters
  • Long Term Care Settings & Adult and Senior Care Facilities

Employers must provide and ensure use of face coverings during outbreaks and major outbreaks.

Employers must provide and ensure use of face coverings when employees return to work after having COVID-19 or a close contact. Please refer to the section in this FAQ on CDPH’s Isolation and Quarantine Guidance.

In addition, employees can request face coverings from the employer at no cost to the employee and can wear them at work, regardless of vaccination status, without fear of retaliation.

Find out more about face coverings.

Where can I learn more about the ETS?

Visit Cal/OSHA’s ETS page. This page contains helpful information and resources specifically related to the emergency temporary standards for employers and workers. 

If a worker is excluded from work because of workplace exposure under the ETS, is the worker eligible for exclusion pay?

 

Yes. A worker who is excluded from work because of a workplace COVID-19 exposure should receive exclusion pay if:

1) the worker is not assigned to telework during that time and

2) the worker is not receiving Disability Payments or Workers’ Compensation Temporary Disability Payments at the time of exclusion.

For more information on Exclusion Pay, please visit DIR’s COVID19 FAQs 

 

 

How can a worker file a claim for exclusion pay with the Labor Commissioner’s Office?

 

 

The worker may file an individual wage claim for exclusion pay with the Labor Commissioner’s Office. Alternatively, the worker may file a Report of a Labor Law Violation (RLLV) with the Labor Commissioner’s Office. An RLLV alleges a systemic violation of law that affects several individuals. In such a case, the Labor Commissioner’s Office would evaluate whether the report involved the whole workforce and whether the Labor Commissioner’s Office should bring claims on behalf of the entire workforce or direct workers to file individual claims.

For more information on Exclusion Pay, please visit DIR’s COVID19 FAQs 

 

 

What if an employer does not exclude a worker from the workplace as required by the ETS?

 

 

If an employer is not excluding workers under the ETS, workers should contact Cal/OSHA and file a Workplace Safety Complaint. For more information, see Cal/OSHA’s COVID-19 Guidance and Resources.

For more information on Exclusion Pay, please visit DIR’s COVID19 FAQs 

 

 

I want to have a safer and healthier workplace

What COVID-19 laws should I be aware of?

California has updated laws and regulations to protect workers and to prevent the spread of COVID-19 infection at workplaces.

COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS)

The COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) became effective and enforceable on November 30, 2020. In May 2022, the emergency temporary standards were readopted with revisions. There were changes to face covering, testing and other requirements.

The ETS applies to all employers, employees, and to all places of employment with three exceptions:

  • Workplaces where there is only one employee who does not have contact with other people.
  • Employees who are working from home or teleworking from a location of the employee’s choice that is not under the control of the employer.
  • Employees who are covered by the Aerosol Transmissible Diseases regulation.

As required by the ETS, an employer must establish an effective written COVID-19 Prevention Program (CPP). The employer must include in their written program and implement the following items:

  • System for communicating with employees and other persons in the workplace about the employer’s COVID-19 prevention procedures.
  • Identification, evaluation, and correction of COVID-19 hazards.
  • Physical distancing is not required in the workplace except where an employer determines there is a hazard and for certain employees during outbreaks.
  • For face coverings, employers must:
    • Provide and ensure the use of face coverings by all individuals required by the CDPH to wear one.
    • Provide face coverings to employees who request one when they are not required.
    • Provide employees with a respirator, upon their request, for voluntary use.
    • Follow the CDPH requirement that businesses and venue operators, including K-12 school and childcare settings, allow any individual to wear a face covering if they prefer.
    • It is illegal for employers to retaliate against any worker for using face coverings.
  • Engineering controls, administrative controls and personal protective equipment that will be used to reduce transmission risk.
  • Procedures to investigate and respond to COVID-19 cases in the workplace.
  • Provide COVID-19 training and instruction to employees.
  • Provide testing to employees that develop symptoms and those that come into close contact with a COVID-19 case. In the case of multiple infections or a major outbreak, implement regular testing for employees in the exposed group, and ensure employees incur no cost for the testing. This means the employer must compensate employees at their regular rate of pay for the time to get tested, as well as travel time and travel costs to and from the testing site.
  • Exclusion of COVID-19 cases and employees that come into close contact and develop symptoms from the workplace until they are no longer an infection risk.
  • Maintain records of COVID-19 cases, and report serious illnesses to Cal/OSHA and cases and outbreaks to the local health department, as required.

Cal/OSHA has posted a Model COVID-19 Prevention Program (Microsoft Word document) on its website to assist employers with establishing their own COVID-19 Prevention Program for their workplace. The model program will be updated soon to reflect Cal/OSHA’s revised emergency temporary standards in effect on May 6, 2022

COVID-19 infection prevention requirements from AB 685

In addition to the ETS you should be aware of the COVID-19 infection prevention requirements from AB 685. 

  • Within one business day, employers must notify all employees, their authorized representative, and independent contractors and other employers at a worksite of potential exposures, COVID-19-related benefits and protections, and disinfection and safety measures that will be taken at the worksite in response to the potential exposure.
  • Employers must notify local public health agencies of all workplace outbreaks, which is defined as three or more laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases among employees who live in different households within a two-week period.

Additionally, AB 685 enhanced Cal/OSHA’s ability to conduct enforcement:

  • From January 1, 2021 until January 1, 2023, Cal/OSHA can issue an Order Prohibiting Use (OPU) to shut down an entire worksite or a specific worksite area that exposes employees to an imminent hazard related to COVID-19.
  • From January 1, 2021 until January 1, 2023, Cal/OSHA can issue citations for serious violations related to COVID-19 without giving employers 15-day notice before issuance.

Workers’ Compensation Presumption (SB 1159) 

This new law creates two rebuttable presumptions that COVID-19 illnesses contracted by specific categories of employees are work related and therefore eligible for workers’ compensation, including medical treatment.

  • The first presumption applies to COVID-19 workers’ compensation claims filed by peace officers, firefighters, first responders, and health care workers.
  • The second presumption, for employers with five or more employees, applies to employees who test positive for COVID-19 during an outbreak at the employee’s specific place of employment. An outbreak occurs when a set number of employees – depending on the number of employees at the workplace – test positive for COVID-19 during a continuous 14-day period.
    • Employers are required to report all employee infections at a specific workplace to their workers’ compensation insurer, regardless of whether the infection appears to be work related. 
    • This is a rebuttable presumption meaning that an employer can present evidence regarding measures they have taken to reduce potential transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace.

2022 COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave

2022 COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave provides covered employees up to 80 hours of COVID-19 related paid leave. Up to 40 of those hours can be used for isolation and quarantine, receiving vaccines and caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed. The additional 40 hours are available only when an employee, or family member for whom the employee provides care, tests positive for COVID-19. Read more about this supplemental paid sick leave that is available in 2022 in the Labor Commissioner’s frequently asked questions.

2020 & 2021 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave (SPSL)

Supplemental Paid Sick Leave (SPSL): In 2020, California authorized emergency COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave of up to 80 hours for most workers. The 2020 requirement expired on December 31, 2020. Another law, SB 95, authorized 2021 SPSL. The law went into effect on March 29 and was retroactive to January 1, 2021. The law required qualifying employees be provided up to 80 hours of supplemental paid sick leave if they are unable to work or telework due to specific COVID-19 reasons. The leave time also applied to getting a COVID-19 vaccine and recovering from symptoms related to the vaccine. 2021 SPSL is was in effect until September 30, 2021 for employers with 26 or more workers. Small businesses employing 25 or fewer workers were exempt from the law but may offer supplemental paid sick leave and receive a federal tax credit, if eligible. If your employees took unpaid time off due to COVID-19 before these laws expired, they might still be able to request pay after expiration.

May a business require customers to wear a face covering to protect against COVID-19 transmission and/or ask customers if they have COVID-19 symptoms and/or take the temperature of customers to determine if they have a fever?

Yes, the Unruh Civil Rights Act permits businesses to implement rules that protect employees and customers from COVID-19 infection.
Please note that the business can’t ask only certain type of customers about the above if it’s done so based on a personal characteristic protected by the Unruh Civil Rights Act. Please consult DFEH’s Guidance regarding COVID-19 safety measures and reasonable accommodations for important information about reasonable accommodations as well.

What safe work practices are required?

There are no physical distancing or barrier requirements in the workplace regardless of employee vaccination status with the following exceptions:

  • Employers must evaluate whether it is necessary to implement physical distancing during an outbreak (3 or more cases in an exposed group of employees)
  • Employers must implement physical distancing during a major outbreak (20 or more cases in an exposed group of employees)

You must encourage hand washing and allow more time for frequent, adequate hand washing, which includes:

  • Washing hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Washing commonly missed areas such as palms, back of hand, thumbs, underneath fingernails and between fingers.

To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, provide employees with an effective hand sanitizer by distributing them at various locations throughout the worksite. Hand sanitizer can be used if soap and water are not immediately available, but hand sanitizer is not effective if the hands are soiled. Do not provide or allow the use of hand sanitizers containing methyl alcohol.

The latest guidance from the California Department of Public Health does not require face coverings in workplaces except in specified high-risk settings, including healthcare settings, public transit and transportation hubs, correctional facilities and shelters. Employers must provide face coverings and ensure they are worn by employees when the CDPH or local health departments require their use.

Employers may still require the use of face coverings as a prevention measure.

In addition, employers must still require certain employees to wear face coverings during a workplace outbreak of COVID-19 and in employer-provided transportation.

Employees may request face coverings from their employer. It is illegal for employers to retaliate against workers for using or requesting a face covering.

Employees may request respirators such as N95 masks for voluntary use from their employers. Employers must provide the requested face coverings and respirators at no cost to the employees.

To make the workplace safer from COVID-19, employers must evaluate how to increase airflow and filtration at work. This means employers must take steps to improve airflow and filtration whenever possible. Cal/OSHA has guidance to help employers evaluate airflow in different settings.

The COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards requires employers to review CDPH’s Interim guidance for Ventilation, Filtration, and Air Quality in Indoor Environments.

If a worker is sick or has been exposed to COVID-19 you must provide the worker with certain wages and/or benefits. For more detailed information on the wages or benefits listed below, explore a worker may be sick or exposed to COVID-19 on this site.

Paid Sick Leave

You may be obligated to provide paid sick leave. If your workers qualify for paid sick leave, you must allow them to take the leave immediately upon their written or oral request.

2022 COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave provides covered employees up to 80 hours of COVID-19 related paid leave. Up to 40 of those hours can be used for isolation and quarantine, receiving vaccines and caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed. The additional 40 hours are available only when an employee, or family member for whom the employee provides care, tests positive for COVID-19. Read more about this supplemental paid sick leave that is available in 2022 in the Labor Commissioner’s frequently asked questions.

Exclusion Pay

Cal/OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) on COVID-19 Prevention require employers to exclude employees from the workplace under certain circumstances related to workplace exposure to COVID-19. While the employee is excluded, their employer must maintain their pay and benefits if the exposure was work-related. For more information on the ETS and whether it applies to your workplace, refer to Cal/OSHA’s Frequently Asked Questions.

Workers’ Compensation

If a test confirms an employee has COVID-19 and was exposed to COVID-19 at work, the employee might be eligible for workers’ compensation, which provides benefits that include:

Remember: Taking an adverse act, including cutting pay or hours, terminating or suspending, in response to workers exercising their rights under the law, including making an oral or written complaint about working conditions or demand for benefits, is unlawful retaliation.

More Resources:

Take an online workplace health and safety training on COVID-19 infection prevention

What supplies do I need to provide to prevent the spread of the virus?

Face Coverings

The latest guidance from the California Department of Public Health does not require face coverings in workplaces except in specified high-risk settings, including healthcare settings, public transit and transportation hubs, correctional facilities, and shelters. When the CDPH or local health department requires use of face coverings, the employer must provide them to employees at no cost and ensure they are properly used.

Employers may still require the use of face coverings as a prevention measure.

In addition, employers must still require certain employees to wear face coverings during a workplace outbreak of COVID-19 and in employer-provided transportation.

Employees may request face coverings and respirators such as N95 masks for voluntary use from their employers. Employers must provide the requested face coverings and respirators at no cost to the employees.

It is illegal for employers to retaliate against any worker for using a face covering.

Employers are required to evaluate the need for personal protective equipment (PPE) to prevent exposure to COVID-19. What PPE you must provide will depend on your employees’ risk of exposure.

Your written plan on preventing workplace safety and health hazards must include training on proper use of any personal protective equipment.

Examples of PPE include:

  • Gloves
  • Goggles
  • Face shields

All types of PPE must be:

  • Selected based upon the hazard to the worker.
  • Properly worn when required.
  • Regularly inspected, maintained and replaced, as necessary.
  • Properly removed, cleaned, and stored or disposed of to avoid contamination of self, others, or the environment.

What information must I provide my employees regarding COVID-19?

 
  • The employer’s COVID-19 prevention program procedures to protect employees from COVID-19 hazards and how employees can participate in the identification and evaluation of COVID-19 hazards.
  • Information on COVID-19 including:
    • COVID-19 is an infectious disease that can be spread through the air when an infectious person talks or vocalizes, sneezes, coughs, or exhales.
    • That COVID19 can also be spread when a person touches a contaminated object and then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth, though that is less common.
    • That an infectious person may have no symptoms.
    • The COVID-19 vaccine is effective at preventing COVID-19 and protecting against both transmission and serious illness or death.
  • Self-screening at home, including temperature and/or symptom checks using CDC guidelines.
  • The importance of not coming to work and getting tested if a worker has symptoms of COVID-19 as described by the CDC, such as a fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
  • The importance of frequent handwashing with soap and water, including scrubbing with soap for 20 seconds (or using hand sanitizer with at least 60% ethanol (preferred) or 70% isopropanol (if the product is inaccessible to unsupervised children) when workers cannot get to a sink or handwashing station, per CDC guidelines). Never use hand sanitizers with methanol due to its high toxicity to both children and adults.
  • Ensure any independent contractors, temporary, or contract workers at the facility are also properly trained in COVID-19 prevention policies and have necessary supplies and PPE. Discuss these responsibilities ahead of time with organizations supplying temporary and/or contract workers.
  • Information on paid leave benefits the worker may be entitled to receive that would make it financially easier to stay at home. See additional information on government programs supporting sick leave and workers’ compensation for COVID-19, and COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave.
  • The conditions when face coverings must be worn at work, and that employees can request them from the employer at no cost, and wear them without fear of retaliation.
  • The employer’s policies for providing N95 respirators and the right for employees to request them for voluntary use without fear of retaliation and at no cost to employees. Employees voluntarily using N95 respirators must be trained on proper use, limitations, and how to perform a user seal check each time they put it on.

Cal/OSHA FAQs on emergency temporary COVID-19 prevention requirements

Where can I get at-home COVID-19 antigen tests?

  • Medi-Cal or Medicare? Bring your card to the window of any pharmacy to ask for free tests.
  • Private insurance? Ask your insurance company how to get free tests.

I’m self-employed, what paid leave can I use?

EDD offers optional Disability Insurance Elective Coverage (DIEC) for people who don’t pay into State Disability Insurance (SDI) but want to be covered by Disability Insurance and Paid Family Leave (PFL).

For more information on DIEC, please visit EDD’s DIEC page

A worker may be sick or exposed to COVID-19

What are COVID-19 symptoms and what do I need to do if an employee is sick or exposed?

Ensure that workers know the symptoms of COVID-19 and encourage them to stay home if they have any of the following:

  • Fever (Temperature greater than 100.4F)
  • Cough
  • Chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Recent loss of taste or smell
  • Difficulty breathing

Read more on California’s website for COVID-19 Symptoms and Facts.

You should encourage employees to let supervisors know if they think they have been in close contact with a COVID-19 case or if they have symptoms. Workers should stay home unless they need medical care. Paid sick leave may be available to them while they recover at home. Provide workers with information on how they can request and use paid sick leave benefits.

If the exposure is work-related and employees are excluded from work, employers must maintain their pay by providing exclusion pay. The Labor Commissioner’s Office has more information on exclusion pay.

Employees must be excluded from the workplace in the following circumstances:

  • Employee tests positive for COVID-19.
  • All employees that develop symptoms, regardless of their vaccination status.

Note that for employees that have close contact with others who are COVID-19-positive during the infectious period, employers must review current CDPH guidance on isolation and quarantine.

You must investigate and respond to a COVID-19 case or close contact in the workplace by doing the following:

  • Determine when the COVID-19 case was last in the workplace, and if possible the date of testing and onset of symptoms.
  • Determine which employees may have been in close contact to the COVID-19 case (within six feet for cumulative total of 15 minutes or greater within a 24-hour period within theinfectious period).
  • Notify employees and any authorized representatives within one business day (and notify any other employer who has potentially exposed employees in the workplace) of the time the employer knew of a COVID-19 case.
  • Employers must offer COVID-19 testing at no cost to employees during paid time to all employees who had close contact in the workplace, except for returned cases.
  • Testing must also be provided for employees in an exposed group:
    • All employees present during the 14-day period in an outbreak, except returned cases who did not develop symptoms after returning to work.
    • All employees in a major outbreak.
  • Investigate the exposure and determine whether workplace conditions could have contributed to the risk of exposure, and what hazard corrections would reduce exposure.
  • Follow all recordkeeping and reporting requirements for employee COVID-19 cases.
  • Exclude from the workplace COVID-19 cases and employees who develop symptoms until they are allowed to return to work.
  • Follow the requirements for preserving their pay and benefits.
  • Follow the return to work criteria for returning excluded employees to work. Follow the CDPH Guidelines for Isolation & Quarantine if those exclusion periods are shorter than those in the Cal/OSHA standards.

Cal/OSHA has a fact sheet on isolation and quarantine.

Employers must record work-related COVID-19 cases in their injury and illnesses logs. You must report information about COVID-19 cases and outbreaks at the workplace to the local health department whenever required by law. You must also notify Cal/OSHA right away when there is a serious illness or fatality related to COVID-19. Read Cal/OSHA’s FAQs on recording and reporting COVID-19 cases.

Employers must implement a cleaning and disinfecting plan and include this plan in the notification of close contacts.

Employers must exclude from work COVID-19 cases and employees that have been in close contact with a COVID-19 case in the workplace.

A COVID-19 case may return to work when any of the following occur:

  • COVID-19 cases, regardless of vaccination status or previous infection, who do not develop COVID-19 symptoms or whose COVID-19 symptoms are resolving:
    • At least five days have passed from the date that COVID-19 symptoms began or, if the person does not develop COVID-19 symptoms, from the date of first positive COVID-19 test;
    • At least 24 hours have passed since a fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher has resolved without the use of fever reducing medications; and
    • A negative COVID-19 test from a specimen collected on the fifth day or later is obtained; or, if unable to test or the employer chooses not to require a test, 10 days have passed from the date that COVID-19 symptoms began or, if the person does not develop COVID-19 symptoms, from the date of first positive COVID-19 test.
  • COVID-19 cases, regardless of vaccination status or previous infection, whose COVID-19 symptoms are not resolving:
    • At least 24 hours have passed since a fever of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher has resolved without the use of fever-reducing medication; and
    • Symptoms are resolving or 10 days have passed from when the symptoms began.

Employers are required to review current CDPH guidance on Isolation and Quarantine for employees who had a close contact, and implement policies to prevent transmission of COVID-19 by people who had close contact. There may be different return-to-work criteria during critical staffing shortages for certain workplaces such as health care, emergency response, and some social service workers. Refer to the CDPH Guidelines for Isolation and Quarantine for Health Care Personnel.

What are paid sick leave options for workers?

Testing and Exclusion Pay

Employees who are not fully vaccinated and exhibit COVID-19 symptoms must be provided testing by their employer. The testing must be provided during paid time. Employees must be excluded from the workplace in the following circumstances:

  • Employee tests positive for COVID-19.
  • Employee had close contact with others who are COVID-19 positive during the high-risk exposure period and they are not fully vaccinated.
    (Note: Employees who had close contact with others who are COVID-19-positive during the high-risk exposure period and (1) they are fully vaccinated, (2) had tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 90 days but never developed symptoms, or (3) had tested positive for COVID-19 within the last 90 days but they have recovered from all symptoms, do not need to be excluded as long as they wear a face covering and maintain six feet distance from others while at the workplace for 14 days following their last date of close contact.)
  • All employees that develop symptoms after a close contact, regardless of their vaccination status.

If the exposure is work-related and employees are excluded from work, employers must maintain their pay by providing exclusion pay. The Labor Commissioner’s Office has more information on exclusion pay.

Review Cal/OSHA’s Isolation and Quarantine Fact Sheet.

Under California’s regular paid sick leave law: Employees working for you in California for at least 30 days in a year are probably covered, whether they are a full-time, part-time, or temporary employee.

California’s regular paid sick leave law gives employees sick time that can be used to:

  • Recover from physical/mental illness or injury;
  • To seek medical diagnosis, treatment, or preventative care;
  • To care for a family member who is ill or needs medical diagnosis, treatment, or preventative care.
  • Self-isolate as a result of potential exposure to COVID-19.

Employees can earn one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked. An employer must allow an employee to take at least 24 hours or three days of paid sick leave per year, whichever is more.

COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave

Employers in the public or private sectors with more than 25 employees, including those with collective bargaining agreements, were required to provide up to 80 hours of COVID-19 related supplemental paid sick leave (SPSL) from January 1, 2021 through September 30, 2021. Workers can still file claims for unpaid SPSL that was not provided during the period the law was in effect. The Labor Commissioner’s Office has more information on SPSL.

If employees are denied paid sick leave, they can report the violation to the Labor Commissioner’s Office. Employers may be subject to fines and penalties if employees file a claim or if the Labor Commissioner opens an investigation to look into workers who were denied paid sick leave.

Side by side Comparison of Leave Chart

What cleaning and disinfection procedures are required?

Employers must implement a cleaning and disinfecting plan if there has been a COVID-19 case at the workplace and notify close contacts of the plan.

To protect employees from COVID-19 hazards you must evaluate handwashing facilities, determine the need for additional facilities, encourage and allow time for employee handwashing, and provide employees with an effective hand sanitizer. You should encourage employees to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds each time. You must not provide or allow the use of hand sanitizers with methyl alcohol.

Take Cal/OSHA’s training course for supervisors on COVID-19 infection prevention

Do I need to offer workers’ compensation benefits?

If a worker believes they contracted COVID-19 at their workplace, they have a right to workers’ compensation benefits. You should encourage workers to notify their employer and file a workers’ compensation claim if they think they contracted COVID-19 at work. When you become aware of the illness, you should provide your employee the workers’ compensation claim form.

On September 17, 2020, the governor signed Senate Bill 1159. This new law creates two rebuttable presumptions that COVID-19 illnesses contracted by specific categories of employees are work related and therefore eligible for workers’ compensation, including medical treatment.

  • The first presumption applies to COVID-19 workers’ compensation claims filed by peace officers, firefighters, first responders, and health care workers.
  • The second presumption, for employers with five or more employees, applies to employees who test positive for COVID-19 during an outbreak at the employee’s specific place of employment. An outbreak occurs when a set number of employees – depending on the number of employees at the workplace – test positive for COVID-19 during a continuous 14-day period.
    • Employers are required to report all employee infections at a specific workplace to their workers’ compensation insurer, regardless of whether the infection appears to be work related. 
    • This is a rebuttable presumption meaning that an employer can present evidence regarding measures they have taken to reduce potential transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace.

This bill limits the risk of employers being liable for claims where the infection did not occur at work by tailoring the presumptions to those first responders and frontline health care workers whose work puts them at the greatest risk of exposure and other employees where there is a demonstrated and verifiable COVID-19 outbreak at their worksite.

You can contact the Information and Assistance Unit if you have questions or call 1‑800‑736‑7401 for recorded information

What is an outbreak and what do I need to report?

Cal/OSHA’s emergency temporary standards on COVID-19 prevention define outbreaks and major outbreaks:

  • Outbreak – three or more employee COVID-19 cases in an “exposed group” within a 14-day period.
  • Major outbreak – 20 or more employee COVID-19 cases in an “exposed group” within a 30-day period.

“Exposed group” means all employees at a work location, working area, or a common area at work, where an employee COVID-19 case was present at any time during the infectious period. A common area at work includes bathrooms, walkways, hallways, aisles, break or eating areas, and waiting areas. The following exceptions apply:

  • (A) For the purpose of determining the exposed group, a place where persons momentarily pass through while everyone is wearing face coverings, without congregating, is not a work location, working area, or a common area at work.
  • (B) If the COVID-19 case was part of a distinct group of employees who are not present at the workplace at the same time as other employees, for instance a work crew or shift that does not overlap with another work crew or shift, only employees within that distinct group are part of the exposed group.
  • (C) If the COVID-19 case visited a work location, working area, or a common area at work for less than 15 minutes during the infectious period, and all persons were wearing face coverings at the time the COVID-19 case was present, other people at the work location, working area, or common area are not part of the exposed group.

NOTE: An exposed group may include the employees of more than one employer. See Labor Code sections 6303 and 6304.1 for full details.

You must contact the local health department immediately but no longer than 48 hours after you become aware of three or more COVID-19 cases for guidance on preventing the further spread of COVID-19 within the workplace.

You must provide to the local health department the total number of COVID-19 cases and for each COVID-19 case, the name, contact information, occupation, workplace location, business address, the hospitalization and/or fatality status, and North American Industry Classification System code of the workplace of the COVID-19 case, and any other information requested by the local health department. You should continue to give notice to the local health department of any subsequent COVID-19 cases at the workplace.

Independent Contractor / Worker Misclassification

What difference does it make if a worker is a worker rather than an independent contractor?

California’s wage and hour laws (e.g., minimum wage, overtime, meal periods and rest breaks, etc.), workplace safety laws, and retaliation laws protect workers, but not independent contractors. Additionally, workers can go to state agencies such as the Labor Commissioner’s Office to seek enforcement of these laws, whereas independent contractors must resolve their disputes or enforce their rights under their contracts through other means.

For more information on the difference between a worker and an independent contractor, please visit DIR’s independent contractor FAQ’s

Are there penalties for misclassifying workers as independent contractors?

Yes. Employers would face wage violation penalties for misclassifying a worker as an independent contractor and civil penalties for willful misclassification. Willful misclassification is defined as voluntarily and knowingly misclassifying a worker as an independent contractor.

For more information on the difference between a worker and an independent contractor, please visit DIR’s independent contractor FAQ’s

Wildfire Smoke and Heat Illness

There is wildfire smoke in the area and I have workers who are working outdoors and asking me for respirators. Am I required to provide them respirators and train workers on how to safely use them?

When the Air Quality Index (AQI) is 151 or greater, but does not exceed 500, employers must provide a sufficient number of respirators (mask that reduces exposure to aerosol droplets) to all workers for voluntary use and encourage workers to use respirators. If workers are complaining about smoke at lower AQI levels it is suggested that you to provide respirators upon request. Employers must also train workers on wildfire smoke hazards, the protections available, and how to use respirators.

For more information on handling wildfire hazards, please review DIR’s wildfire hazards FAQ’s

My workers work in an office building nearby wildfires, how can I determine if the air is safe to breathe?

If the building has a central ventilation system that filters the incoming air, windows and other openings are kept closed, and the doors are kept closed except for when it’s necessary for people to enter or exit, the air quality should be safe. If there are still concerns with the air quality, portable air cleaners can provide additional protection. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and use air cleaners that are certified by the California Air Resources Board.

For more information on handling wildfire hazards, please review DIR’s wildfire hazards FAQ’s

Is an employer required to provide N95 masks to workers?

Employers are required to provide respiratory protection if the working conditions include harmful exposures. When responding to wildfire smoke, providing masks might be required depending on the current air quality.

Employers also need to have a written respiratory protection program.

More information on when to provide masks and the written respiratory protection program is available at DIR’s N95 mask FAQs.

Where can I check and obtain the current Air Quality Index (AQI) and AQI forecasts?

You can check and obtain the current AQI and AQI forecasts for PM2.5 from the following web sources:

What should be done if a worker starts to get sick from the heat?

Employers must have a plan that describes what to do if a workers shows signs or symptoms of heat illness, including who will be contacted for medical help. The employer must also provide training on steps to take in case of an emergency, including appropriate first aid procedures for heat illness; and how to give clear and precise directions to the work site if a call to 911 is needed. Workers are not responsible for any medical or ambulance costs related to workplace illness or injuries.

For more information on Wildfire Hazards, please review Cal/OSHA’s FAQ’s on 99Calor.  

Do workers get an extra break to prevent heat illness?

In addition to regular breaks, workers have the right to a minimum 5-minute cool down rest in the shade at any time during the shift, and employers have an obligation to tell workers that they have these rights without retaliation.

When temperatures reach or exceed 95 degrees, agricultural employers must ensure workers take a minimum ten-minute cool-down rest every two hours.

An additional ten-minute cool-down rest at the end of the 8th and 10th hours of work is also required.

For more information on heat illness, please review Cal/OSHA’s FAQ’s on 99Calor.  

Training and resources

COVID-19 training for California workers

Online courses are available for workers and employers to take on-demand. Take a course to learn more about COVID-19 and preventing the spread in the workplace.

Learn from our partners

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A variety of free trainings for employers, workers, and unions are being offered by the Labor Occupational Health Program at UC Berkeley. 

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A list of resources for workers and communities impacted by COVID-19 is provided by the UCLA Labor Occupational Safety and Health Program.

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COIVD-19 resources specific to helping agricultural employers and farmworkers are available from the Western Center for Agricultural Health and Safety at UC Davis. 

Who to contact

Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA)

You can file a workplace safety and health complaint with Cal/OSHA online, or by telephone at the district office closest to you.

Cal/OSHA has launched a call center to help workers with questions specifically related to COVID-19.

The Cal/OSHA call center number is: 833-579-0927

Workers' Compensation

For questions on workers' compensation, call 1-800-736-7401 for recorded information on workers' compensation benefits from Information and Assistance staff 24 hours a day, or contact a local Division of Workers' Compensation office during business hours to reach a live person

 

Labor Commissioner's Office

For questions on paid sick leave, retaliation protections, filing a wage claim, or retaliation complaint:

(833) LCO-INFO (833-526-4636)

To leave a tip about an employer that is not paying workers that take sick leave:

(855) LCO-SPSL (855-526-7775)

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