By Lindley Fraley, Esq.

It may seem like COVID-19 is a distant memory – we have at-home COVID tests, mask mandates are long gone, and summer get-togethers are in full swing. However, California employers still have a host of regulations with which to comply. How can an employer run an effective and profitable business, and still comply with these requirements?

Cal-OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standards issued on 4-21-22 remain in place. These standards loosened previous requirements, but a few notable points remain:

  1. COVID-19 is still considered a hazardous disease that employers have a duty to protect their employees from;

  2. COVID-19 tests must remain available, free of cost, and “paid work time” for employees who have been a close contact to someone with COVID-19, whether that contact is at work or not;

  3. COVID-19 workplace plans are still required by Cal-OSHA;

  4. Supplemental Paid COVID-19 Sick Leave is still in effect.

The key to compliance is to have a COVID-19 workplace policy that can be adjusted as necessary. An effective policy will contain COVID-19 information regarding self- monitoring for symptoms, workplace hygiene recommendations, and extensive information regarding leave policies. California employees have access to Supplemental Paid Sick Leave, as well as workers’ compensation if COVID-19 is contacted in the workplace.

Employers should purchase home tests that can easily be administered at work during paid work hours or sent home with employees to test prior to work. Testing must be paid for by the employer and be done “on the clock.” Moving tests to “on the clock” will cut down on actual work time.

Finally, employers should still have disposable N-95 or higher grade masks available for employees, which is direct evidence of an employer’s attempt to protect employees from COVID in the workplace.

COVID-19 regulations have loosened significantly, but employers must take well- planned steps to comply with the law and protect their business interests.