State and Federal Governments Adopt New COVID-19 Emergency Standards Requiring Immediate Action by Employers in California

AdobeStock_392831851-300x200COVID-19 has created significant issues when it comes to workplace safety, and lawmakers are racing to implement rules based on changing circumstances of the pandemic while attempting to balance the interests of employers and employees. While Congress has engaged in protracted and fierce debate over economic relief packages, state and federal agencies have been much quicker to act on safety rules –  and to enact the emergency authority necessary to enforce these rules. Employers in California must be aware of these rules and the immediate actions they require. Here are some of the most basic safety rules that have been enacted to protect California employees from the spread of the coronavirus in the workplace:

What the New Rules Require

Cal/OSHA has adopted emergency rules that require employers to protect their employees from the transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace. These rules require employers to:

  • implement a site-specific written COVID-19 prevention program,
  • correct unsafe or unhealthy conditions, and
  • provide face coverings.

If an employee contracts COVID-19, employers are required to provide testing for employees and notify local public health authorities. In addition, the rules require accurate recordkeeping and reporting of multiple COVID-19 cases in the same workplace.

At the federal level, OSHA has taken a different approach. Rather than implementing new guidelines, OSHA has issued guidance on how COVID-19 cases fall under existing mandates. For example, reporting can be required under existing rules if the employee was exposed to the coronavirus in the workplace. Current rules require PPE for certain workers, and this, too, applies to coronavirus exposure in the workplace. Even existing rules that deal with bodily fluids and secretions can be used to determine guidelines for protecting employees from the respiratory secretions that are known to spread COVID-19.

OSHA has posted a list of current rules that can be applied to coronavirus in the workplace. OSHA has also provided a list of guidelines and recommendations that can be used to help reduce the risk of exposure to – and the spread of – the coronavirus in the workplace. These recommendations are not legal mandates, but they can help you protect your employees. Adhering to these recommendations can also help protect your business from liability by offering proof that you followed all available guidance for protecting your employees.

Concerned about Compliance? Call Us Today to Speak with a Business Attorney in California

The coronavirus has created physical, medical, and financial challenges that California employers have never before faced. It has also created new laws and regulations and novel legal questions that have never been presented before. These issues will continue to be litigated for months – and even years – as state and federal courts work through a backlog of coronavirus cases. California employers can be prepared to avoid liability by following every new law, rule, guideline, and recommendation that is issued.

An experienced business lawyer can help you stay updated on these rapidly changing updates and figure out how best to implement them in your employment practices. Call (408) 441-7500 or contact us through our website to schedule a consultation. The sooner you have an experienced attorney advising your business, the better protected you will be from all types of liability.