New 2021 California COVID-19 Laws for Employees
Employers and employees have been dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic for close to a year, and while we have learned a lot in that time, some employees were being denied protections and wage replacement that were designed to keep them safe. The new 2021 California laws aim to fill that gap and provide infection information, additional healthcare, wages, and protected leave to assist those taking care of sick family members.
Family Leave During COVID-19
There have always been workplace inequalities when it comes to paid family leave. Only companies with 50 or more employees offered protected leave to take care of family members: sick kids, spouses, or a new baby. However, this type of protected leave is rarely extended to low-income workers, as more than half of California's employees work for companies with less than 50 workers, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The new law, Senate Bill 1383, requires that all companies with five or more employees allow 12 weeks of unpaid job-protected leave to take care of a sick family member. It also extends family members to include grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, and in-laws. This is a welcome change for low-income workers trying to balance their jobs with their families' health.
Notification of Workplace Infections
California's Division of Occupational Health and Safety (Cal/OSHA) tightens regulations that require employers to inform employees of COVID19 infections in the workplace. If they fail to do so, they can face severe penalties.
A business must notify employees within one business day of any workplace exposure. They also must offer information on sick leave benefits, protected family leave, and not retaliate against workers who must quarantine. They also must alert local public health agencies within 48 hours if there are more than three lab-confirmed cases at a single location within a two-week period.
During the start of the pandemic, businesses were denying that worker's compensation applied when employees became ill. However, Senate Bill 1159 applies the presumption that if an outbreak occurs at work (four employees testing positive within a two-week period, or 4% of employees with companies of 100 workers), then those who contract COVID-19 likely obtained it from work and worker's compensation does apply.
If you are an employee who has questions regarding COVID-19 exposure and your rights, contact the Law Offices of Tanya Gomerman at 415 545 8608 for a free consultation.