California Enacts Laws to Enhance Employer Safety and Health Requirements
California has recently enacted two pieces of legislation to significantly expand protections to employees in the realms of workplace health/safety and deal with COVID-19 outbreak reporting.
California Senate Bill 606 creates a whole slate of new violations, remedies, and compliance measures for Cal/OSHA violations.
- SB 606 adds “egregious violations” for violations of Cal/OSHA. An employer is responsible for an egregious violation if at least 1 of the following occurs:
o A violation is known to the employer, and that employer makes no reasonable effort to cure the violation;
o if that violation results in a fatality, three hospitalizations, or a large number of injuries/illnesses;
o A violation creates a persistently high rate of injuries or illnesses;
o The employer has had a prior history of health/safety violations;
o The employer has intentionally abdicated its responsibilities to its employees regarding health and safety;
o An employer acts in bad faith with regards to his health and safety responsibilities;
- SB 606 also adds “enterprise-wide violations” for violations of Cal/OSHA. This means that an employer who is noncompliant in one workplace may be presumed to be out of compliance in multiple workplaces. An employer may refute this determination by showing one of the following:
o The employer’s written policy/procedure is in compliance with OSHA; and
o This employer does not have a pattern of this type of behavior at other worksites.
These regulations go into effect January 2022. Employers should keep these regulations in mind for the 2022 calendar year when reviewing their employee handbooks. Ensure that all health and safety policies follow Cal/OSHA standards as closely as possible, and ensure that all claims of workplace hazards are addressed promptly and seriously.
Along with SB 606, the California Legislature passed this bill, which addresses COVID-19 outbreak reporting issues in the workplace. Specifically:
- Outbreak reporting has been amended so that the reporting timeline is one business day or 48 hours (whichever is later);
- Certain facilities that were once exempt from outbreak reporting are no longer (including adult day health centers, community clinics, community care facilities, and child daycare facilities).
- “Workplaces” for the purposes of exposure notifications do not include telework;
- Outbreak notifications are only required to be given to employees who were on the premises at the same worksite as the affected individual during the infection period.
Employers should communicate these new guidelines to Human Resources as soon as possible to ensure accurate dissemination of outbreak information to the required individuals.
Heather Reynolds, ESQ