Update: State Issues New Guidance for Reopening of Businesses and Office Spaces

CATEGORY: Special Bulletins
CLIENT TYPE: Public Employers, Public Safety
PUBLICATION: LCW Special Bulletin
DATE: May 14, 2020

On May 12, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that two counties—Butte and El Dorado—satisfied state readiness criteria under Expanded Phase 2 of the state’s Reopening Plan, and would be permitted to authorize the reopening of certain businesses in those jurisdictions, including office-based businesses.

Since the initial announcement, 15 additional counties have certified that they meet the same readiness criteria. As other counties satisfy those criteria and permit now-closed businesses to reopen, it is imperative that public agencies, particularly those that have closed non-essential portions of their operations, begin to consider how to reopen, and how to do so safely.

Governor Newsom’s May 12 announcement is the latest in a series of incremental steps that he has taken to reopen the state since his issuance of the stay home order on March 19, 2020. Last month, Governor Newsom outlined a four phase reopening plan. Last week, Governor Newsom announced that the state would be entering into Phase 2 of that plan on May 8, and that the state would begin to allow office workspaces and other industries to reopen later in Phase 2.

Furthermore, the California Department of Public Health (“CDPH”) indicates that office-based businesses may reopen if they meet certain conditions. However, office-based businesses with teleworking capability are strongly encouraged to continue to provide teleworking arrangements for employees.

In addition to being located in a county that the state has permitted to move to the next stages of Phase 2, CDPH requires that a facility also must perform each of the following in order to open: (1) Perform a detailed risk assessment and implement a site-specific protection plan; (2) Train employees on how to limit the spread of COVID-19, including how to screen themselves for symptoms and stay home if they have them; (3) Implement individual control measures and screenings; (4) Implement disinfecting protocols; and (5) Implement physical distancing guidelines. However, despite this state guidance, individual counties that elect to move slower through Phase 2 may elect to prohibit offices within those counties from opening even if offices meet state requirements.

On May 11, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“Cal-OSHA”) and CDPH released guidance concerning how employers in office-based businesses can provide safe and healthy workplaces for their employees and meet the requirements listed above. Additional guidance from Cal-OSHA and CDPH provides specific recommendations for reopening other industries that are or may be applicable to public agencies, including child care, construction, energy and utilities, ports, and public transit.

In order to provide our clients advice concerning the Return to Work, LCW is hosting a webinar dedicated to this subject on Tuesday, May 19, 2020. LCW will be providing program participants a suite of policies to assist these agencies reopen their facilities and worksites and return employees to work in a healthy and safe manner. We hope you will join us.