In 2022, California again passed fitting bills related to COVID-19. Recent legislation has expanded some employer obligations and relaxed others. These bills cover many topics and include additional paid sick leave, testing requirements, workers’ compensation, and positive case reporting requirements.
Additional paid sick leave
Additional paid sick leave for COVID-19 was supposed to expire on September 30, 2022, but has now been extended through December 31, 2022. Notably, AB 152 does not award additional time to employees who have used all of their COVID-19-related leave.
Testing and additional paid sick leave
For leave related to a positive COVID-19 test, employers were allowed to request documentation of a first positive test and a second test five days after the first positive test. The second test should be provided free of charge to the employee. With AB 152, employers can now request a third test for the employee at no cost within 24 hours of the positive second test. Employers can deny additional paid sick leave to employees who refuse to submit proof of the results of a requested COVID-19 test.
Employers should continue to provide COVID-19 additional paid sick leave and adapt COVID-19 testing policies to meet the above requirements. As of January 1, 2023, when employers are no longer required to provide COVID-19 paid sick leave, employers are also not required to provide employees with a second or third COVID-19 test. However, employers may be required to provide COVID-19 testing in other situations under the temporary emergency standards of the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA). Learn more about Cal/OSHA’s testing requirements here.
COVID-19 Relief Grant Program for Small Businesses and Nonprofits
AB 152 establishes the California Small Business and Nonprofit COVID-19 Relief Grant Program to help small businesses and nonprofits meet the costs associated with providing additional paid sick leave. Qualified companies can recover costs of up to $50,000 for providing employees with additional paid sick leave. The subsidy applies to employees who took additional paid sick leave between January 1, 2022 and December 31, 2022.
To be eligible for the program, an organization must comply all of the following requirements:
- Incorporated as a C corporation, S corporation, cooperative, limited liability company, partnership, or limited partnership, or registered as a 501(c)(3), 501(c)(6), or 501(c)(19) organization .
- In use before June 1, 2021.
- Currently in operation.
- Employs 26 to 49 employees.
Employers have until 1 January 2024 to qualify for the subsidy.
Eligible employers must prepare the required documentation pending the rollout of the California Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) application.
AB 1751: Employee Compensation for Contracting COVID-19
Until January 1, 2024, AB 1751 extends a rebuttable presumption of workers’ compensation coverage for when workers contract COVID-19. Under this law, employees are presumed to have contracted COVID-19 at work if there was an outbreak where they work. An employer can dispute this presumption.
For the presumption to apply, an employee must have tested positive for COVID-19 within 14 days of work at the workplace and the employee’s positive test must have occurred during an outbreak at the employee’s workplace. An outbreak is defined as 4% or more of the job site workforce testing positive for COVID-19 within 14 calendar days. Another situation that is considered an outbreak is when government agencies order a specific workplace to close due to a risk of COVID-19 infection.
An employer can challenge the presumption with evidence of (1) measures taken to reduce transmission of COVID-19, (2) the employee’s risks of contracting COVID-19 unrelated to the job, (3) statements from a employee, or (4) any other evidence that may dispute a work-related infection.
Employers should continue to follow federal, state and local guidelines regarding COVID-19. Also, employers must continue to report positive COVID-19 cases to their claims administrator. In addition to reporting cases, employers must document any information that would rebut the presumption of workers’ compensation.
AB 2693: Notification Requirements
AB 2693 extends employers’ obligations to inform employees about potential exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace until January 1, 2024. However, AB 2693 relaxes some requirements for employers. Employers are no longer required to notify their local health department. Employers may also post a workplace notice of potential exposure to COVID-19 in lieu of individual written notice to employees.
Secondment in the workplace
If an employer decides to use a job posting, the employer must prominently display the job where other regulatory job postings are commonly posted, including employee portals. An employer must state the following information on the secondment:
- The dates an employee with a confirmed case of COVID-19 was in the workplace.
- The location of the exposure.
- Contact information for employees to receive COVID-19 related benefits, including workers’ compensation, COVID-19 related time off, company sick leave, statutory leave, extended sick leave and negotiated leave provisions, as well as information on anti-retaliation protections.
- Contact details to request the employer’s cleaning and disinfection plan.
The job posting must remain visible for a minimum of 15 days and must be in English or a language understood by most employees, and the employer must keep track of the posting dates.
Individual written notice
If an employer chooses to notify its employees in writing, the notice must be given to all employees who were in the same workplace during the contagious period of a confirmed COVID-19 case. An infectious period starts two days before a person with symptoms has symptoms or two days before a positive COVID-19 test for a person without symptoms. Employers may provide this information in writing, by email or by text message in English, as long as the form of communication is consistent with how each employer usually distributes job-related information. In particular, the requirements for written notice are much less onerous than those for a workplace secondment.
Employers must decide whether to use a job posting or continue to provide individual written notices. Regardless of how employers notify their employees of potential exposure to COVID-19, employers must ensure they provide all required information for the appropriate type of notification.