Illustration of four people in masks to illustrate AB 685.

California enacted several new labor and employment laws during its fall 2020 Legislative Session. One of the most controversial for the business community was AB 685, which requires employers to provide COVID exposure notifications to employees.

The law, signed on Sept. 17, 2020, by Governor Newsom, goes into effect on January 1, 2020. Under AB 685, an employer is required to provide notice to employees under the following circumstances:

  1. An employee has COVID-19; 
  2. An employee has been ordered to isolate related to COVID-19; 
  3. An employee has died from COVID-19; or 
  4. An employee or the worksite itself has been exposed to someone fitting the description of (i), (ii) or (iii). 

Employers must provide written notice in the usual manner of the company’s communications. All employees who were on the premises of the qualifying individuals, and employers must notify its local public health department of any outbreaks within 48 hours of the outbreak. Employers are required to include the names, phone numbers, occupations and worksites of the infected individuals, and the business address and NAICS code of their corresponding work sites. 

Each business is required to keep written records of notifications and outbreaks for at least three years in a confidential place where other medical information is stored.

Cal/OSHA is authorized to enforce safety violations through immediate worksite shutdowns and citations when it believes employees are exposed to COVID-19 with an “imminent hazard.” A serious violation may result in a civil penalty of up to $25,000.


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