Employers

COVID-19 Workplace Requirements Employers Need to Know

construction worker wearing mask
Baker in store wearing mask and glove

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 emergency temporary standards

Employer vaccination toolkit

COVID-19 employer portal

Training, resources, & contacts

COVID-19 vaccines in the workplace

Voluntary N95 distribution

 

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.

Changes to employer portal: Please note that the employer portal has been updated with changes to state guidance, including Cal/OSHA’s revised Emergency Temporary Standards that are effective June 17th 2021.

 

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?

An employer is not compelled to use any specific method of documenting their employees’ vaccination status, though whichever method is used, the information must be kept confidential.

What if an employee declines to disclose their vaccination status?

Under the ETS, an employer is not obligated to require employees to submit proof of being fully vaccinated. Absent such a requirement, an employee has the right to decline to state if they are vaccinated or not. If a worker declines to disclose their vaccination status, the employer must treat the employee as unvaccinated.

Under the July 26th State Public Health Order, certain settings such as Acute Health Care and Long-term Care, High-risk Congregate, and other Health Care settings must verify vaccine status of all workers and may require weekly testing for workers.

As of July 26, 2021, California now requires all state workers and workers in health care and high-risk congregate settings to either show proof of full vaccination or be tested at least once per week, and encourage all local government and other employers to adopt a similar protocol. For more details, please review the announcement by the Governor.

As of August 11, 2021, California also requires public and private schools serving students in transitional kindergarten through grade 12 to verify vaccine status of all workers. Unvaccinated workers are required to undergo diagnostic screening testing and must be tested at least once weekly. Please see the CDPH order for more info.

In order to return to work, is it mandatory to get vaccinated under California law?

Under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), an employer may require employees to receive an FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine so long as the employer does not discriminate against or harass employees on the basis of a protected characteristic, provides reasonable accommodations related to a disability or sincerely held religious belief, and does not retaliate against employees for engaging in protected activity such as requesting a reasonable accommodation. For more information, please visit the Department of Fair Employment and Housing Employment Information on COVID-19.

State Employees:

As of July 26, 2021, California now requires all state workers and workers in health care and high-risk congregate settings to either show proof of full vaccination or be tested at least once per week, and encourage all local government and other employers to adopt a similar protocol. For more details, please review the announcement by the Governor.

School employees, see below:

As of August 11, 2021, California also requires public and private schools serving students in transitional kindergarten through grade 12 to verify vaccine status of all workers. Unvaccinated workers are required to undergo diagnostic screening testing and must be tested at least once weekly. Please see the CDPH order for more info.

Who is eligible for booster vaccinations?

On September 24, 2021, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and The Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup recommended the following people should receive booster doses at least six months after completing their initial Pfizer series:

  • people ages 65 and over
  • residents in long-term care settings
  • people aged 50–64 years with underlying medical conditions, including many racial and ethnic minority groups and people with disabilities, at risk of health inequities

In addition, CDC and Western States recommended the following people may consider receiving a booster dose:

  • people aged 18 through 49 years with underlying medical conditions
  • people aged 18 through 64 who are at increased risk for COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of occupational or institutional setting

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

What are examples of workers who may get Pfizer-BioNTech booster shots?

This is not a complete list, and it may be updated in the future, but examples include:

  • First responders (e.g., healthcare workers, firefighters, police, congregate care staff)
  • Education staff (e.g., teachers, support staff, daycare workers)
  • Food and agriculture workers
  • Manufacturing workers
  • Corrections workers
  • U.S. Postal Service workers
  • Public transit workers
  • Grocery store workers

When should I receive a Pfizer booster dose?

Booster doses should be administered at least six months after an individual has completed their initial vaccine series. They do not need to be administered exactly at six months, but it is recommended that eligible individuals receive a booster to ensure they maintain a strong immunity against COVID-19.

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

Currently, only Pfizer BioNTech vaccines have been granted an extended EUA to allow for booster vaccine doses at least six months after the second vaccine dose.

Does receiving a booster eliminate the need for further harm-reduction precautions?

No, even with an extra dose of a mRNA vaccine, harm reduction precautions are still prudent to keep all Californians safe. Vaccines are not 100% effective, and youth under the age of 12 are not yet eligible for the vaccine, so taking precautions such as wearing a mask protects Californians from becoming seriously ill with COVID-19.

 

[/et_pb_section][/et_pb_section]

COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards

The COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards are still in effect. The workplace standards were updated on June 17, 2021 to include requirements for vaccinated and unvaccinated workers. In addition to these requirements, employers must follow public health orders on COVID-19. Local public health orders may require the use of face coverings by all individuals indoors regardless of vaccination status. Cal/OSHA also encourages employers to follow the California Department of Public Health’s guidance recommending all individuals wear face coverings while indoors. More information is available on Cal/OSHA’s ETS page.

What is the status of the ETS?

The ETS took effect on November 30, 2020. On June 17, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board voted to adopt new revisions to the ETS. Following the vote, Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order to allow the revisions to take effect the same day. More information on the revised COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards can be found 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:

  • There is an unvaccinated employee that, for medical reasons, is not able to wear a face covering or non-restrictive alternative and other employees are not fully vaccinated or tested at least weekly.
  • Employers must evaluate whether it is necessary to implement physical distancing and barriers during an outbreak (3 or more cases in an exposed group of employees)
  • Employers must implement physical distancing and barriers during a major outbreak (20 or more cases in an exposed group of employees)

More information is available on Cal/OSHA’s ETS page.

Is documentation required for a fully vaccinated employee to work without a face covering indoors?

Yes. Vaccination status must be documented. The revised ETS does not specify a particular method. The employer must record the vaccination status for any employee not wearing a face covering indoors and this record must be kept confidential. The revised ETS does not specify a particular method.

Employers can require all employees wear a face covering instead of having a documentation process.

View acceptable documentation options.

What is an employer’s obligation to provide respirators such as N95 masks?

An employer must provide respirators in two scenarios:

  1. To any unvaccinated employee who works with others indoors or in a vehicle and who requests one.
  2. Where there is a major outbreak, to any employees in the exposed group for voluntary use.

The respirator must be the right size, and the employee must receive basic instruction on how to get a good “seal,” or fit.

Find out more about respirators.

Who has to wear face coverings?

Face coverings are required indoors and in vehicles for unvaccinated employees. Employees in certain indoor settings must wear a face covering regardless of vaccination status if required by CDPH order. As of June 15, those indoor settings where CDPH requires face coverings include public transit, K-12 educational facilities, health care and long-term care settings, correctional and detention facilities, and shelters (homeless or emergency shelters and cooling centers).

Though face coverings are not required outdoors, employers must communicate to workers that face coverings are recommended for unvaccinated persons outdoors where six feet of physical distancing cannot be maintained. Employers must provide face coverings to unvaccinated persons and make them available to vaccinated persons upon request.

Find out more about face coverings.

Are there requirements from the November 2020 ETS that will remain in place?

Yes, including:

  • An effective written COVID-19 Prevention Program.
  • Providing effective training and instruction to employees on the employer’s prevention plan and their rights under the ETS.
  • Providing notification to public health departments of outbreaks.
  • Providing notification to employees of exposure and close contacts.
  • Requirements to offer testing after potential exposures.
  • Requirements for responding to COVID-19 cases and outbreaks.
  • Quarantine and exclusion pay requirements.
  • Basic prevention requirements for employer-provided housing and transportation.

Review the latest information on the revisions in Cal/OSHA’s Frequently Asked Questions.

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. 

I want to have a safer and healthier workplace

What COVID-19 laws should I be aware of?

California has new 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. On June 17, 2021 the emergency temporary standards were readopted with revisions. There were changes to face covering, physical distancing, testing and other requirements for vaccinated and unvaccinated workers.

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.
  • Ensuring the proper use of face coverings:
    • Employees are not required to wear face coverings when outdoors regardless of vaccination status except for certain employees during outbreaks.
    • Fully vaccinated employees do not need to wear face coverings indoors or in vehicles, except for certain situations during outbreaks and in settings where CDPH requires all persons to wear face coverings. Employers must document the vaccination status of fully vaccinated employees if they do not wear face coverings indoors.
    • Employees required to wear face coverings, such as unvaccinated employees working indoors, are permitted to not wear a face covering under certain circumstances:
      • When an employee is alone in a room or vehicle.
      • While eating or drinking at the workplace, provided employees are at least six feet apart and outside air supply to the area, if indoors, has been maximized to the extent feasible.
      • Employees wearing respirators required by the employer and used in compliance in accordance with section 5144 or other title 8 safety orders.
      • Employees who cannot wear face coverings due to a medical or mental health condition or disability, or who are hearing-impaired or communicating with a hearing-impaired person.
      • While doing specific tasks which cannot feasibly be performed with a face covering. This exception is limited to the time period in which such tasks are actually being performed.
    • Employees who are not fully vaccinated may request respirators like N95 masks for voluntary use from their employers at no cost and without fear of retaliation from their employers.
  • 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 who are not fully vaccinated, and vaccinated employees that develop symptoms and come into close contact with a COVID-19 case, and in the case of multiple infections or a major outbreak, implement regular testing for employees in the exposed group and who are not vaccinated, and ensure employees incur no cost for the testing. This means you 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, unvaccinated employees that come into close contact, and vaccinated 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 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 June 17, 2021.

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.

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 in 2021, they might still be able to request pay after September 30. The Labor Commissioner’s Office has Frequently Asked Questions about 2021 SPSL in English and Spanish.

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:

  • There is an unvaccinated employee that, for medical reasons, is not able to wear a face covering or non-restrictive alternative and other employees are not fully vaccinated or tested at least weekly.
  • Employers must evaluate whether it is necessary to implement physical distancing and barriers during an outbreak (3 or more cases in an exposed group of employees)
  • Employers must implement physical distancing and barriers 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 is not as effective as hand washing but it can be used if soap and water are not immediately available. Do not provide or allow the use of hand sanitizers with methyl alcohol.

You must establish procedures to routinely clean commonly touched objects and surfaces. You should ensure there is adequate time and supplies to support cleaning practices. These cleaning procedures must include:

  • Identifying and regularly cleaning frequently touched surfaces and objects, such as doorknobs, elevator buttons, equipment, tools, handrails, handles, controls, bathroom surfaces and steering wheels.
  • Informing employees and authorized employee representatives of cleaning and protocols, including the planned frequency and scope of regular cleaning, and disinfection of an area used by an employee COVID-19 case.
  • Cleaning and disinfection of areas, material, and equipment used by a COVID-19 case during the high-risk exposure period.

The commonly touched surfaces in your workplace should be more frequently cleaned with products that are EPA-approved for use against COVID-19. You should ensure correct use of any product and any protective equipment that is required.

Employers must provide and ensure the proper use of face coverings in the workplace under certain conditions.

  • When an employee requests a face covering, regardless of their vaccination status.
  • Employees are not required to wear face coverings when outdoors regardless of vaccination status except for certain employees during outbreaks.
  • Fully vaccinated employees working indoors do not need to wear face coverings except for certain situations during outbreaks and in settings where CDPH requires all persons to wear face coverings.
  • Employees required to wear face coverings may not do so under certain conditions.
  • Employees who are not fully vaccinated may request respirators such as N95 masks for voluntary use from their employers at no cost and without fear of retaliation from their employers.
  • It is illegal for employers to retaliate against any worker for using a face covering.

Employers must record the vaccination status for any employee not wearing a face covering indoors and this record must be kept confidential. Cal/OSHA’s regulations do not specify exactly how the vaccination status must be recorded. Acceptable options include:

  • Employees provide proof of vaccination (vaccine card, image of vaccine card or health care document showing vaccination status) and employer maintains a copy.
  • Employees provide proof of vaccination. The employer maintains a record of the employees who presented proof, but not the vaccine record itself.
  • Employees self-attest to vaccination status and employer maintains a record of who self-attests.
  • Employers can require all employees wear a face covering instead of having a documentation process.

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.

California required employers with 26 or more employees to provide up to 80 hours of supplemental paid sick leave from January 1, 2021 to September 30, 2021. Read more about this supplemental paid sick leave that should have been made available in 2021 in the Labor Commissioner’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

Employers must ensure the proper use of face coverings in the workplace.

  • Employees are not required to wear face coverings when outdoors regardless of vaccination status except for certain employees during outbreaks.
  • Fully vaccinated employees do not need to wear face coverings indoors or in vehicles, except for certain situations during outbreaks and in settings where CDPH requires all persons to wear face coverings. Employers must document the vaccination status of fully vaccinated employees if they do not wear face coverings indoors.
  • Employees required to wear face coverings, such as unvaccinated employees working indoors, are permitted to not wear a face covering under certain circumstances.
    • When an employee is alone in a room or vehicle.
    • While eating or drinking at the workplace, provided employees are at least six feet apart and outside air supply to the area, if indoors, has been maximized to the extent feasible.
    • Employees wearing respirators required by the employer and used in compliance in accordance with section 5144 or other title 8 safety orders.
    • Employees who cannot wear face coverings due to a medical or mental health condition or disability, or who are hearing-impaired or communicating with a hearing-impaired person.
    • Specific tasks which cannot feasibly be performed with a face covering. This exception is limited to the time period in which such tasks are actually being performed.
  • Employees who are not fully vaccinated may request respirators like N95 masks for voluntary use from their employers at no cost and without fear of retaliation from their employers.
  • It is illegal for employers to retaliate against any worker for using a face covering.

Employers must record the vaccination status for any employee not wearing a face covering indoors and this record must be kept confidential. Cal/OSHA’s regulations do not specify exactly how the vaccination status must be recorded. Acceptable options include:

  • Employees provide proof of vaccination (vaccine card, image of vaccine card or health care document showing vaccination status) and employer maintains a copy.
  • Employees provide proof of vaccination. The employer maintains a record of the employees who presented proof, but not the vaccine record itself.
  • Employees self-attest to vaccination status and employer maintains a record of who self-attests.
  • Employers can require all employees wear a face covering instead of having a documentation process.

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 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 program requirements 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:
    • 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, OR
    • If a worker was diagnosed with COVID-19 and has not yet been released from isolation, OR
    • If, within the past 14 days, a worker has had contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and is considered potentially infectious (i.e., still on isolation).
  • To return to work after a worker receives a COVID-19 diagnosis only after meeting CDPH Guidance on Returning to Work or School Following COVID-19 Diagnosis.
  • To seek medical attention if their symptoms become severe, including persistent pain or pressure in the chest, confusion, or bluish lips or face. Updates and further details are available on CDC’s webpage.
  • 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, including workers’ sick leave rights under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
  • The employer’s policies for providing N95 respirators and the right for not fully vaccinated 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 and limitations.

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

What steps do I need to take to reopen safely?

  • Consult the latest information from the Governor’s Office on which businesses and activities can operate.
  • Identify and correct unsafe work practices.
    • Create a site-specific COVID-19 Prevention Plan (Model COVID-19 Prevention Program [Microsoft Word document])
    • Consult industry specific guidance and checklists
    • Conduct a site-specific evaluation of where COVID-19 transmission could occur, including interactions between employees and any other persons, and places employees may congregate or interact with members of the public.
    • Allow workers and worker representatives to be involved in hazard identification and evaluation.
  • Provide effective training to employees based on the requirements of Cal/OSHA’s emergency temporary standards on COVID-19.
  • Modify work practices, employee schedules and the physical workplace to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

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

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.

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 the high-risk exposure period).
  • Notify employees 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 :
    • Employees who were fully vaccinated before the close contact
    • COVID-19 cases who were allowed to return to work and have remained symptom free.

Testing must also be provided for employees in an exposed group:

    • Unvaccinated employees in an outbreak.
    • 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 had a close contact until they are allowed to return to work, Employees who are fully vaccinated prior to the close contact and do not develop symptoms do not need to be excluded.
  • Follow the requirements for preserving their pay and benefits.
  • Follow the return to work criteria for returning excluded employees to work.

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 illnesses or fatality related to COVID-19. Read Cal/OSHA’s FAQs on recording and reporting COVID-19 cases.

Employers must record the vaccination status for any employee not wearing a face covering indoors and this record must be kept confidential. Cal/OSHA’s regulations do not specify exactly how the vaccination status must be recorded. Acceptable options include:

  • Employees provide proof of vaccination (vaccine card, image of vaccine card or health care document showing vaccination status) and employer maintains a copy.
  • Employees provide proof of vaccination. The employer maintains a record of the employees who presented proof, but not the vaccine record itself.
  • Employees self-attest to vaccination status and employer maintains a record of who self-attests.

You should temporarily close the general area where the COVID-19 case worked until cleaning is completed. Conduct deep cleaning of the entire general area where the COVID-19 case worked and may have been, including breakrooms, restrooms and travel areas, with a cleaning agent approved for use by the EPA against coronavirus. It should ideally be performed by a professional cleaning service.

  • Any person cleaning the area should be provided and use the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) for COVID-19 disinfection (disposable gown, gloves, eye protection, mask, or respirator if required) in addition to PPE required for cleaning products. They also need to be trained on how to properly protect themselves.

Employers must exclude from work COVID-19 cases, and unvaccinated employees that have been in close contact with a COVID-19 case in the workplace. A COVID-19 case or close contact may return to work when any of the following occur:

  • For employees with symptoms and persons who had a close contact and developed symptoms (with some exceptions) all of these conditions must be met:
    1. 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
    2. COVID-19 symptoms have improved; and
    3. At least 10 days have passed since COVID-19 symptoms first appeared.
  • For COVID-19 cases who tested positive but never developed symptoms, at least 10 days have passed since the COVID-19 case’s first positive test.
  • If a licensed health care professional determines the person is not/is no longer a COVID-19 case, in accordance with California Department of Public Health (CDPH) or local health department recommendations.

Employees who had a close contact and never developed symptoms may return to work when 10 days have passed since the last known close contact.

There are different return-to-work criteria during critical staffing shortages for certain workplaces such as health care, emergency response, and some social service workers.

 

What are paid sick leave options for workers?

Employers in the public or private sectors with more than 25 employees, including those with collective bargaining agreements, are required to provide up to 80 hours of COVID-19 related supplemental paid sick leave (SPSL) from January 1, 2021 through September 30, 2021, immediately upon an oral or written request from their employee.

A covered worker may take leave if the worker is unable to work or telework for any of the following reasons:

  • Caring for self: The employee is subject to quarantine or isolation period related to COVID-19 as defined by an order or guidelines of the California Department of Public Health, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or a local health officer with jurisdiction over the workplace, has been advised by a healthcare provider to quarantine, or is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis.
  • Caring for a Family Member: The covered employee is caring for a family member who is subject to a COVID-19 quarantine or isolation period or has been advised by a healthcare provided to quarantine due to COVID-19 , or is caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed or unavailable due to COVID-19 on the premises.
  • Vaccine-Related: The covered employee is attending a vaccine appointment or cannot work or telework due to vaccine-related symptoms.

Rate of Pay for COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave:

  • Non-exempt employees must be paid the highest of the following for each hour of leave:
    • Regular rate of pay for the workweek in which leave is taken
    • State minimum wage
    • Local minimum wage
    • Average hourly pay for preceding 90 days (not including overtime pay)
  • Exempt employees must be paid the same rate of pay as wages calculated for other paid leave time
  • Not to exceed $511 per day and $5,110 in total for 2021 COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick leave

Workers may be entitled to 80 hours if they work full-time. For part-time workers, view the FAQs for information on calculating the correct amount of leave.

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.

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?

You must implement effective procedures to regularly clean commonly touched objects and surfaces. You should ensure there is adequate time and supplies to support cleaning practices. These cleaning and procedures must include:

  • Identifying and regularly cleaning frequently touched surfaces and objects, such as doorknobs, elevator buttons, equipment, tools, handrails, handles, controls, bathroom surfaces and steering wheels.
  • Informing employees and authorized employee representatives of cleaning and disinfection protocols, including the planned frequency and scope of regular cleaning, and disinfection of an area used by an employee COVID-19 case.
  • Cleaning and disinfection of areas, material, and equipment used by a COVID-19 case during the high-risk exposure period.

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. 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 or identified as an outbreak by a local health department.
  • 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 high-risk exposure 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 high-risk exposure 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.

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

illustration of person wear mask
Labor Occupational Health Program at U C Berkeley

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

U C L A Labor Occupational Safety and Health Program logo

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

U C D Western Center for Agricultural Health and Safety logo

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

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)

 

 

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.

 

 

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

 

Website feedback