New COVID-19 Notice Requirements for California Employers

September 23, 2020 Advisory

California has passed a new law (A.B. 685) requiring employers to notify employees and contractors in the event of “potential exposure” to COVID-19 and to notify local health departments regarding “outbreaks” of COVID-19 in their California workplaces.  This law takes effect on Jan. 1, 2021.

Exposure Notice to Employees

Except in limited circumstances, a public or private employer in California, or a representative of such an employer, that receives a notice of potential exposure to COVID-19 is required to issue notice to the employees of that facility or worksite within one business day.

Potential exposure includes situations in which an employee at the worksite:

  1. has a laboratory-confirmed case of COVID-19;
  2. has a positive COVID-19 diagnosis from a licensed health care provider;
  3. has been ordered to isolate related to COVID-19;
  4. has died from COVID-19; or
  5. has been exposed at the workplace to anyone in categories (1)-(4) above.

Within one business day of receiving notice of such potential exposure, the employer must provide written notice to individuals in the following categories who were on the same worksite as the individual who is the subject of the potential exposure during that individual’s “infectious period” (currently defined as 14 days by the California Department of Public Health): (1) all of the employer’s employees, (2) any union representing the notified employees, and (3) the employers of any subcontracted labor.

Notices required under this law must advise the recipients that they may have been exposed to COVID-19. Employers may provide written notice in a manner normally used to communicate employment-related information, including email or text message, so long as it is reasonably anticipated to be received by the recipients within one business day. The notice must be in both English and the language understood by the majority of the employees to whom notice is required. Employers are required to maintain records of COVID-19 notifications for at least three years.

In its written notice, an employer must also include certain information regarding COVID-19-related benefits and options, including the following:

  • benefits available under applicable federal, state or local laws, including workers’ compensation;
  • options for exposed employees, including COVID-19-related leave, company sick leave, state-mandated leave, supplemental sick leave or negotiated leave provisions; and
  • anti-retaliation and anti-discrimination protections that cover the employee.

An employer receiving notice of a potential exposure must also notify all employees of the disinfection and safety plan that the employer plans to implement and complete per the guidelines of the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Outbreak Notice to Health Department

With limited exceptions for health facilities, in the event of any outbreak—which is currently defined as three or more COVID-19 cases within any 14-day period—an employer must notify (within 48 hours) the local health department in the jurisdiction of the worksite at issue. Thereafter, an employer must notify the local health department of any subsequent lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases at the worksite at issue.

A.B. 685 further provides that the California State Department of Public Health shall collect the COVID-19-related information reported to local health departments and make it public and searchable on its website.


A.B. 685 expands Cal/OSHA’s authority to enforce COVID-19 safety standards through immediate worksite closures and citations, sidestepping typical notice and hearing requirements.

The law also provides that employees who believe they have been retaliated against for reporting COVID-19 exposure may file a complaint pursuant to California Labor Code Section 98.6.

Armstrong Teasdale attorneys are actively monitoring and providing updates regarding the impact of COVID-19. For additional information, visit Armstrong Teasdale’s COVID-19 Resource Center.

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