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AB 654 – Modifies Employer Obligations For Reporting Workplace COVID-19 Exposures And Outbreaks
Assembly Bill 654 (AB 654) modifies existing reporting requirements for employers regarding instances of COVID-19 exposures and outbreaks in the workplace. The bill, which was enacted on October 5, 2021, was designated an urgency statute and took effect immediately, and will remain in effect until January 1, 2023.
Employers have an existing obligation to report COVID-19 exposures at a “worksite” to all employees at that site and to each employee organization, if any, that represent such employees, as well as to report outbreaks at the “worksite” to the local health department. An “outbreak” is defined as three or more COVID-19 cases among employees in an “exposed group” (i.e., all employees at a work location, working area, or a common area at work, where an employee COVID-19 case was present at any time during the high-risk exposure period) within a 14-day period. AB 654 significantly narrows the definition of “worksite” for reporting purposes.
Under prior law, “worksite” was broadly defined to include “the building, store, facility, agricultural field, or other location where a worker worked during the infectious period.” This definition did not account for large worksites where many employees could work simultaneously without having direct or indirect exposure to one another.
The new definition for “worksite” excludes (1) buildings, floors, or other locations of the employer that a qualified individual did not enter; (2) locations where the worker worked by themselves without exposure to other employees; and (3) a worker’s personal residence or alternative work location chosen by the worker when working remotely. The first exclusion is particularly important to employers because now employers must only report COVID-19 exposures in areas where employees actually work and where there is potential for exposure.
As a result of this amendment, employers may send fewer, but more targeted, notices to employees in the event of a workplace exposure. Specifically, an employer will need to determine which employees were in the specific “worksite,” and send those employees notices as opposed to sending the notices to all employees in the building. Employers will also have to send fewer “outbreak” notices to the local health department because there is a reduced likelihood that there will be three COVID-19 cases in the same “worksite” under the revised and more limited definition.
Moreover, the AB 654 provides 17 types of facilities exempted from reporting requirements. Those include child day care facilities that meet the definition under the California Child Day Care Facilities Act.
(AB 654 amends Sections 6325 and 6409.6 of the Labor Code.)