AB 654 Clarifies Notice and Reporting Obligations for COVID-19 Workplace Exposure

Keenan Briefings

Briefings

AB 654 Clarifies Notice and Reporting Obligations for COVID-19 Workplace Exposure

October 21, 2021
  • AB 654 makes two clarifications regarding the written notice on COVID-19 exposure
  • The new law adjusts the reporting timeframe that employers must follow to notify local public health agencies when meeting the definition of a COVID-19 outbreak
  • AB 654 modifies several definitions associated with the existing workplace COVID-19 exposure notification statute
  • The law specifies that the existing COVID-19 reporting requirements do not apply to certain health clinics and care facilities

On October 5, 2021, Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law AB 654 (Chapter 533, Statutes of 2021), which clarifies several aspects of the steps an employer must take when it receives a notice of potential workplace exposure to COVID-19.

Background

In 2020, AB 685 (Chapter 84, Statutes of 2020) was enacted to provide guidelines and requirements around workplace COVID-19 exposure reporting. The changes to the Labor Code enacted as a result of AB 685 require employers to provide specified notices to employees and others if an employee is exposed to COVID-19. AB 685 provided a mechanism for the Department of Public Health to collect and publish information regarding COVID-19 outbreaks by workplace industry. For more detailed information about AB 685, please see the following AP Keenan briefings on the law here:

Changes Made by AB 654

AB 654 makes two clarifications regarding the written notice on COVID-19 exposure. First, it clarifies who must receive the notice — it must be provided to all employees who were on the premises at the same worksite as the qualifying individual within the infection period. Secondly, it clarifies that the written notice provided to the employees’ exclusive representative must go to the exclusive representative of both the employees who had close contact with the qualifying individual and the qualifying individual.

Importantly for employers, the new law adjusts the reporting timeframe that employers must follow to notify local public health agencies when meeting the definition of a COVID-19 outbreak, from 48 hours to 48 hours or one business day, whichever is later.

The law expands the authority of the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal-OSHA) to cite employers for COVID-19 health and safety violations and to suspend operations if COVID-19 creates an “imminent hazard” (while clarifying that this authority does not apply to electrical power, renewable natural gas, or water facilities).

AB 654 also modifies several definitions associated with the existing workplace COVID-19 exposure notification statute, including the following.

  • It defines “close contact” to mean being within six feet of a COVID-19 case for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or greater in any 24-hour period within or overlapping with the high-risk exposure period. This definition applies regardless of the use of face coverings.
  • It defines “high-risk exposure period” to mean either of the following time periods:
    • For persons who develop COVID-19 symptoms, from 2 days before they first develop symptoms until 10 days after the symptoms first appeared, and until 24 hours have passed with no fever, without the use medications and symptoms have improved.
    • For persons who test positive who never develop COVID-19 symptoms, from 2 days before until 10 days after the first positive specimen collection.
  • It also modifies the existing law definition of “worksite” to clarify that it does not include locations where the worker worked by themselves without exposure to other employees, or to a worker’s personal residence or alternative work location chosen by the worker when working remotely.

The law specifies that the existing COVID-19 reporting requirements do not apply to certain health clinics and care facilities including community clinics, intermittent clinics exempt from licensure, tribal clinics exempt from licensure, outpatient settings conducted, maintained, or operated by federally recognized Indian tribes, tribal organizations, or urban Indian organizations, rural health clinics, federally qualified health centers, chronic dialysis clinics, employers that provide health care services and that have employees licensed pursuant to the Business and Professions Code, adult day health centers, home health agencies, pediatric day health and respite care facilities, hospices, community care facilities including adult residential facilities for persons with special health care needs,care facilities for persons with chronic life-threatening illnesses, residential care facilities for the elderly, and child day care facilities.

Finally, AB 654 establishes a January 1, 2023 sunset date for the COVID-19 exposure notice provisions.


AP Keenan is not a law firm and no opinion, suggestion, or recommendation of the firm or its employees shall constitute legal advice. Clients are advised to consult with their own attorney for a determination of their legal rights, responsibilities, and liabilities, including the interpretation of any statute or regulation, or its application to the clients’ business activities.