California Employers – Know Your COVID-19 Obligations

Employers in California have new reporting obligations related to employee COVID-19 cases under California legislation AB 685. The purpose of AB 685 is to allow the state to more closely track COVID-19 cases in the workplace.

The new law goes into effect for California employees on January 1, 2021 and requires employers to provide written notice to all employees who worked at their worksite during an infectious period who may have had exposure to the virus. It also enhances the reporting requirements to local health authorities in the event there is an outbreak of COVID-19 at your worksite.

Required Notice to Employees and Employee Representatives

Under the new notice requirement, employers in California are required to take action within one business day of a “potential exposure” based on a positive diagnosis of COVID-19 by someone at the worksite. The notice must be provided in writing to all employees and any subcontractors who were at the worksite during the infectious period and may have potentially been exposed to COVID-19.  Written notice should also be provided to any employee representatives such as union representatives or attorneys.

The notice can be delivered in person or distributed via email or text message if the employee is anticipated to see the notification within one business day. The notice should be both in English and any other language that is understood by the majority of your employees.

Notices should include information related to any COVID-19 related benefits such as workers’ compensation benefits, COVID leave of absence such as that provided under the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), paid sick leave, etc. You should also include the company’s anti-discrimination, anti-harassment, and anti-retaliation policies. In addition, the notice should include details regarding the company’s protocols for disinfecting the worksite and the safety plan to prevent any further exposures per CDC guidelines.

 Required Reporting of a COVID-19 Outbreak at Your Worksite

If you have multiple COVID-19 positive cases at your worksite, you may be subject to new reporting requirements related to outbreaks at the worksite. Local public health authorities determine the number of positive COVID-19 cases are considered an outbreak. Upon learning of the outbreak, employers are required to report the required information to their local public health agency within 48 hours.

In the event of a COVID-19 related fatality, California employers are required to notify their local health department of the name, number, occupation, and worksite location of any employees who have died due to COVID-19 exposure.

Employers are encouraged to create an action plan for their company and worksites related to COVID-19. You should identify the risks of COVID-19 exposure at your worksite(s) and decide how you will act to prevent exposure (looking at things such as improved ventilation, providing personal protective equipment such as masks or face shields, requiring social distancing when possible, etc).

Preparing Your Workplace for the Coronavirus

The recent Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak around the world has been in the news often the last few months, especially more recently since multiple people in the United States have now been diagnosed with the virus.  As an employer, there are a few things that you can do to protect your workforce and help prevent the spread of the virus in the event your employees are diagnosed, or exposed to someone who has been diagnosed, with the virus: Continue reading

Encourage Your Employees to Take Breaks

Many states require that employees are allowed breaks for rest and/or meal periods (see our previous blog post here for information on your state’s requirements, if any).  But even for employers in states with no requirements, there are many reasons you should encourage your employees to take regular breaks.

While taking breaks may seem counterproductive when you want your employees to be as productive as possible during their work time, there are actually several benefits, both for the employee and the employer, when employees take breaks.

Continue reading

New York – New Sexual Harassment Training Required

With sexual-harassment allegations on the rise, states are moving towards reform of their laws and the complaint process. One of these states is New York, which recently passed a law that will go in effect October 9th requiring companies to provide annual sexual-harassment training for all employees.

Sexual Harassment IMage
All training must meet or exceed the standards of the state, either by using a program set forth by state agencies or the company’s independent training program. Continue reading

Stay Interviews: A Valuable Retention Tool

Most managers are familiar with exit interviews – a series of questions asked of employees who are terminating their employment with the company. The purpose of the exit interview is to gather information about the employee’s opinions of their employment with the company – how did the employee feel about training, management, their pay and benefits, what types of obstacles or challenges did the e1438752_91149422mployee face, why is the employee leaving employment with the company, etc. This information can then be considered when deciding whether to make any changes at the company for the remaining and future employees.

While very useful information can be obtained from exit interviews, they are done too late. By the time an employee is completing an exit interview it is too late for the employer to make changes for that employee. Instead of exit interviews (or in addition to) employers may want to consider doing “stay” interviews with their existing employees. Find out how the employee feels about their position, their pay and benefits, their supervisors. Learn about what challenges employees are facing. Ask for suggestions to improve the workplace. Get a better idea of what is working and what employees do enjoy about working there. What keeps the employees coming to work for you every day?  Continue reading

Can We Require Our Employees to Have Flu Shots?

drugs-20250_1920Now that flu season is upon us many employers question whether they can require their employees to have a flu shot. As a simple answer, yes, generally employers can require their employees to have a flu shot unless the employee has a religious objection or cannot receive the vaccine due to a disability.  There are a number of factors an employer may want to take into consideration before requiring the flu shot for all employees. Continue reading

Caution: Some Employee Conduct is Protected

Fire an employee for the wrong reason — or in the wrong situation — and the employee could claim retaliation and file a lawsuit.

Several activities by employees are off-limits to retaliatory actions such as firing or disciplinary action.  Any retaliation by the employer could spell potential legal trouble, such as a wrongful termination lawsuit.

Here are three areas of protected employee conduct:

Continue reading

Flexible Work Schedules Can Trap You

1378002_16584036You want to be a good employer.  You realize some of your employees need some flexible hours and flexible days because of the demands of young children.

So you adopt a flexible schedule policy for working parents.  You allow employees with young children to arrange with their supervisors for flexible schedules.

You’ve just created a potential swamp of quicksand to get trapped in.

Continue reading

Managing Remote Employees: Five Issues to Consider

Allowing employees to work from home can provide significant benefits for employers and employees. It can improve morale, reduce real estate and facility costs — office-620817_1280and even reduce traffic congestion and make the environment cleaner. However, when the appropriate oversight is lacking, fraud and abuse can result and wipe out many, if not all, of the benefits associated with a work-from-home program.

Before allowing employees to commute to desks within their homes, consider the following issues to minimize the risk and maximize the returns associated with a work-from-home-program:

Continue reading

Demonstrate that Your Firm Won’t Tolerate Harassment

file6831274905127It’s probably impossible for your company to eliminate any chance of harassment, but there are precautions you can take to help win a lawsuit filed by an employee:

  • Above all, have a sound company policy against harassment, which includes discrimination based on sex, race, color, religion, national origin, age, disability, or any other class protected by federal, state, or local law.
  • Make sure your employees are aware of the policy. Spread the word through orientation sessions and your employee handbook.
  • Require staff members to sign an agreement indicating that they understand the policy.
  • At least once a year, train your employees and managers on the subject of harassment and its consequences. Employees must be told how to report incidents and feel they can without retaliation.

Continue reading