Important Legislative Updates: COVID-19 CFRA Expansion, COVID-19 Required Notices to Employees, and Workers’ Compensation Presumption

Posted in: Employment Law by Dowling Aaron on

Governor Newsom recently signed laws impacting workers’ rights in light of the COVID-19 pandemic AND significantly expanding the California Family Rights Act for smaller employers. Key changes are explained below:

SB 1383 reduces the number of employees required for the California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”) to apply to employers to only five (5) or more employees; a significant reduction from the old standard, which was fifty (50) or more employees. Effective January 1, 2021, an employer with 5 or more employees must provide 12-weeks of job protected leave and continue to provide health benefits and other entitlements under CFRA while the employee is on leave.

Smaller employers will have to comply with the CFRA, including notice requirements. Employers should prepare now for compliance, including preparation of forms and documents.

In a change for larger employers as well, the revised law also expands the definition of “family member” under CFRA to include a child of a domestic partner, grandparent, grandchild, sibling, or domestic partner.

This change implicates potential “stacking” of leaves with other types of leave, including, for example, CFRA/ Pregnancy Disability Leave, and the Family Medical Leave Act.
You can find the Bill here.

AB 685 expands employee COVID-19 protections by requiring employers to provide notice of a “potential exposure” to COVID-19 within one business day. This law will become effective January 1, 2021. The notice should go to all employees and employers of subcontracted employees (and employee-representatives) who were at a worksite within the infectious period who may have been exposed to the virus. The notice must contain information regarding COVID-19 benefits that the employee may receive, including workers’ compensation benefits, leave, and the Company’s anti-discrimination, anti-harassment, and anti-retaliation policies, and also provide disinfection protocols and safety plan to eliminate further exposure per the CDC guidelines. Employers should develop a plan NOW on how it will comply with this law as exposures happen and the time requirements are very short. You can find the Bill here.

SB 1159 expands on a prior Executive Order (N-62-20) regarding COVID-19 in the workers’ compensation context, creating a “disputable presumption” that certain workers who get COVID-19 were exposed at work. An employer can dispute the presumption by showing the measures it had in place to reduce transmission of COVID-19, statements made by the employee, and other ways the employee could have been exposed to the virus outside work. The presumption exists for employees who get sick from the virus on or after July 6, 2020 through January 1, 2023. The Bill also puts tight timelines in place for disputing the workplace exposure presumption. You can find the Bill here.  This Bill highlights again the importance of having a COVID-19 mitigation plan in place.

 By: Rebecca A. Hause-Schultz and Jorge Lopez Espindola

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