California Releases “Employer Playbook for a Safe Reopening”

COVID-19 Update

On Monday, August 3, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom released the Employer Playbook for a Safe Reopening to help employers “plan and prepare for reopening” businesses.

The Playbook provides information on how the Newsom Administration expects employers to handle COVID-19 in the workplace as they reopen, including:

  • When and how an employer should report a COVID-19-positive employee
  • What is defined as an “outbreak”
  • Guidance for employers who may be considering whether to suspend operations due to COVID-19 spread in the workplace

The Playbook outlines considerations for how employers can work with their local health departments, communicate identified cases with employees, and prevent spread in the workplace once a case has been identified. The Playbook also provides State guidance on evaluating when employees can return to work, based on their infection status, symptoms, and length of quarantine or isolation.

The Playbook states that employers are required to report an “outbreak” of COVID-19 to their local health department. It defines an outbreak as “three or more laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 within a two-week period among employees who live in different households.”

The Playbook includes information on enforcement and compliance. In particular, it notes the creation of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services COVID-19 Enforcement Task Force to monitor and enforce violations of State statutes and orders. Beyond reporting an outbreak of three or more cases, the Playbook outlines existing Cal/OSHA reporting requirements for work-related fatalities, injuries and illnesses, which now include those related to COVID-19. These rules require employers to track:

  • Death
  • Days away from work
  • Restricted work or transfer to another job
  • Medical treatment beyond first aid
  • Loss of consciousness
  • A significant injury or illness diagnosed by a physician or other licensed healthcare professional

The Playbook also provides a template and guidance on complying with privacy laws when communicating about positive cases.

Finally, the Playbook includes resources for both employers and employees, as well as checklists to help streamline the compliance process for businesses. This guidance includes information on federal and state sick leave and paid leave programs:

  • California Paid Sick Leave
  • California COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave
  • Federal paid sick leave
  • Local paid sick leave laws

In addition to the Playbook, under the Governor’s Executive Orders businesses that are reopening must also comply with industry-specific state guidance as well as any applicable county or municipal restrictions or Health Officer Orders. An up-to-date listing of local regulations is available here.

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The Playbook represents the Newsom Administration’s high-level views on reopening in compliance with state law and regulation, and executive orders. Of necessity, the Playbook touches on many issues, but most are legally complex and do not lend themselves to a high-level overview. 

Manatt has a whole host of resources available to employers to support the reopening process, which have been vetted by its professionals across practice disciplines, including employment and labor, government, healthcare, tax, privacy and regulatory areas. For more information, click here.

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