July 27, 2020

California’s New “Employer Playbook” Helps Employers Prepare for and Respond to COVID-19 Situations

On July 24, 2020, California released the Employer Playbook for a Safe Reopening. The Employer Playbook provides detailed information for employers in an easy-to-read checklist format.

The majority of the document is dedicated to explaining “what to do if there is a case of COVID-19 in the workplace.” The guidance provides employers with checklists for how to  prepare and respond to a COVID-19 outbreak, how and what to communicate with the local health department (“LHD”) in the jurisdiction where the workplace is located, how to communicate with other workers, how to prevent further spread in the workplace, and when workers may return to work after isolation. The guidance places a great emphasis on working with the LHD. For example, an employer must take further steps at the direction of the LHD, which may include closing the worksite, deep cleaning, and permitting or requiring telework.

In addition, the Employer Playbook elaborates on more strict recordkeeping requirements of California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (“DOSH” or “Cal/OSHA”) as compared to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”). For example, California employers must report to Cal/OSHA within eight hours after the employer knows, or with diligent inquiry would have known, of any serious illness that occurred at work or in connection with work. An illness is “serious,” if it requires inpatient hospitalization for other than medical observation or diagnostic testing.

The Employer Playbook also provides information on enforcement and compliance (e.g., explains the role of the COVID-19 Enforcement Task Force), information for worker education at the workplace and at home (e.g., do not use any hand sanitizer that contains methyl alcohol due to its high toxicity), guidance on enforcing mask requirements (e.g., providing suggested language to use for de-escalation of conflict), case studies of what businesses are doing now to remain compliant (e.g., a packaged food company provided time for workers to clean before and after shifts), and links to the resources referenced throughout the document.

Disclaimer: Laws, regulations, and guidance on matters related to COVID-19 change rapidly. Please contact your Payne & Fears attorney for current guidance.