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California Adopts COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards

Posted on December 16, 2020

California Adopts COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards

Regulation Alert

In the effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, Cal/OSHA has issued new temporary standards that all California employers must adopt as of November 30, 2020. These regulations will remain in place for at least 180 days.

Who’s Covered

All California employers except for those with: (a) one employee who does not have contact with other people; (b) employees working exclusively from home; or (c) those covered by California’s Aerosol Transmissible Disease standards, which generally applies to first responders and medical facilities, among others. See Section 5199 for more details.


  1. Develop, implement and communicate a written COVID-19 Prevention Program which includes a:
  • Process to identify and evaluate employee exposure to COVID-19.
  • Process for reporting potential exposure to the disease without fear of retaliation to the employee.
  • Policies and procedures to improve and correct COVID-19 exposure hazards.
  • Require employees to wear face coverings, observe physical distancing, improve ventilation and maximize outdoor air.
  1. Provide face covering and training to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and information on the related benefits for affected employees.
  2. Employees excluded from work due to a positive test must be provided sick leave as well as related benefits such as worker’s compensation and FFCRA.
    • Employers are obligated to maintain employee’s earnings, seniority and benefits during exclusion from work.
    • Employers may comply with the paid time off obligation through company sponsored paid sick leave.

Addressing COVID-19 Cases

Employers must investigate and respond to potential COVID-19 or positive cases in the workplace following these guidelines:

  • Determine when the COVID-19 case was last present at work.
  • Determine which employees were exposed to the COVID-19 case.
  • Notify employees of any potential exposure within one (1) business day
    • Exposure is defined as:

Employees within 6 feet of the COVID-19 case for a cumulative total of 15 minutes within any 24-hour period of the “high risk-exposure period”.

Exclusion from & Return to Work

  1. Employees who test positive or were exposed to COVID-19 case must be excluded from work.
  2. Employees who test positive for COVID-19 can return to work only if the following conditions have been met:
  • More than 24 hours have passed since the employee last had a fever of 100.4 degrees or more without the assistance of any medication
  • COVID-19 symptoms have improved
  • At least 10-days have passed since COVID-19 symptoms first appeared
  1. Asymptomatic employees. Shall not return to work until a minimum of 10 days have passed since the date of specimen collection of their first positive test.
  2. Exposed employees must quarantine for 14 days from the date of last exposure before return to work.
  3. Employers cannot ask for proof of a negative test or a doctor’s note to allow an employee back to work.

Pay Requirements

Employers are required to offer excluded from work employees pay benefits which may include:

  1. Federal Paid Sick Leave under the FFCRA (fewer than 500 employees)

Up to 80 hours of COVID-19 related Supplemental paid sick leave.

  1. California COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave (500 or more employees)

Up to 80 hours of COVID-19 related Supplemental paid sick leave.

  1. Local COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave

Employers must consult with the relevant local enforcement agency for the locality in which they work for more information.

  1. California Paid Sick Leave

Can be used for COVID or non-COVID related illnesses and preventive care. Employees are not required to use their paid sick leave.

  1. For more information on pay requirements and benefits visit the California Labor & Workforce Development Agency on COVID-19 resources. 

Managing Outbreaks

Outbreaks of COVID -19 in the workplace are defined as:

  • Three (3) or more cases within a 14-day period at a single location; or
  • Twenty (20) or more cases within a 30-day period, in an “exposed workplace”  (or major outbreak)

The standards for both of these scenarios require:

  • Employers to inform employees on how to get tested and offer immediate testing at no cost, during working hours, to all employees that might have been exposed in the workplace.
  • A follow-up test one week later, and continued weekly testing during the 14-day quarantine period from the date of the outbreak
  • Exclusion from the workplace for all employees who test positive or were exposed to COVID-19
  • Investigate the outbreak and take corrective actions to further prevent the spread
  • Document the investigation and all corrective actions implemented
  • Notify the local health department within 48 hours of the outbreak or earlier

In the case of a major outbreak, the requirements include all the above plus:

  • Increased testing at least twice a week to all exposed employees within the 30-day period 
  • Continue the investigation and corrective actions, including stoppage of operations if necessary

Final Thoughts

  • Keep, maintain records and track all cases while ensuring confidentiality of medical information.
  • If hospitalizations or death occurs, employer must report immediately to Cal/OSHA.
  • Employer provided transportation requires screening workers before boarding, distance sitting, and face covers.
  • Employers shall continue to review county protocols to ensure compliance with local requirements.
  • Cal/OSHA is imposing penalties starting at $13,000 for general violations and can go as high as $132,000 for willful negligence.

eqHR Solutions’ trusted advisors are ready to assist you in your unique Human Resource, Employee Training  and Payroll needs. Included below is some valuable information that can be applied to all businesses.

If you find that you have a unique situation or would like assistance with a policy or procedure for the current Coronavirus situation, please do not hesitate to contact your assigned trusted advisor or any other member of our team.

COVID-19 Resources 

CA/OSHA – Covid-19 guideline

CDC -Information & Interim Guidance for Businesses



US Dept of Labor – FAQ Family Medical Leave