In 2020, we started the year with a global pandemic that was constantly putting employers through interesting challenges. Pre-COVID-19 times were challenging enough for employers regarding labor law compliance. Fast forward to the present, COVID-19 is still making it much more difficult for management and HR professionals not only to comply with labor laws and continuously changing guidance but to also ensure the safety of their employees from the virus.
Along the way, our compliance team has spoken with so many of your organization’s decision-makers in trying to maneuver through the pandemic and we realized that so many organizations are going through very similar and/or highly unique COVID-19 situations. These situations typically involve best practices, returning to work timelines, COVID-19 paid sick leave ordinances, and state-provided programs. We here at Filice would like to assist you in any way that we can, so we have compiled a list of several of the frequently asked questions that we have received and are happy to share the answers with you.
We have an employee who has tested positive for COVID-19, what do we do?
If an employee has a positive COVID-19 test result, employers should immediately send the employee home if they are working onsite. Instruct the employee to quarantine by following CDC recommendations and/or Cal-OSHA recommendations, self-monitor for symptoms, and telework if possible. Inform the employee of their options for paid or unpaid sick leave and government wage replacement programs such as State Disability Insurance (SDI) and Unemployment Insurance through the EDD.
Employers should identify all close contacts to the positive COVID-19 employee. It is highly recommended to not disclose the name of the COVID-19 positive employee and to practice high levels of confidentiality to stay in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regarding confidentiality with medical information.
Employers should then notify their employees and the organization’s potentially exposed affiliates of exposure of the COVID-19 positive employee. Additionally, employers should also notify their local Public Health Department, Workers’ Compensation carrier, and Cal/OSHA (if applicable).
In most scenarios, an employer would not need to close down their facility, however, it is advised that employers air out, clean, and disinfect the COVID-19 positive employee’s area of exposure and if necessary, to follow the recommended CDC’s cleaning and disinfecting guidance.
Here is a link for additional employer COVID-19 guidance directly from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Here is a link for additional employer COVID-19 guidance directly from Cal-OSHA.
It is important to note that your employer’s county may have more stringent regulations compared to the CDC. Please refer to your county’s department of public health COVID-19 employer guidance website for additional recommendations.
When should we allow a COVID-19 positive employee to come back into the workplace?
The CDC recommends that individuals who think or know that they have had COVID-19 with symptoms can be around others again if they fall under these specific criteria: After 10 days since symptoms first appeared with 24 hours with no fever, without the use of fever-reducing medications, as well as have other improving symptoms of COVID-19.
The CDC also recommends that anyone who has had close contact with an individual who has COVID-19 should stay home for 14 days from the last exposure to that individual. It is important to note that employers should seek guidance from their local health department’s websites for options to possibly reduce this quarantine period.
Cal/OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) provides specific criteria for a COVID-19 case to return to work if any of the following occurs:
- For employees with symptoms, all of these conditions must be met:
- At least 24 hours have passed since a fever of 100.4 or higher has resolved without the use of fever-reducing medications;
- COVID-19 symptoms have improved; and
- At least 10 days have passed since COVID-19 symptoms first appeared
- For employees without symptoms, at least 10 days have passed since the COVID-19 case’s first positive test.
- If a licensed health care professional determines the person is not/is no longer a COVID-19 case, in accordance with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) or local health department recommendations.
The Emergency Temporary Standard’s criteria for employees that are exposed to a COVID-19 case can return to work after 10 days without showing any symptoms, however, a 14-day quarantine is recommended.
Here is a link to Cal/OSHA’s Temporary Standards’ FAQs for additional information.
Since the FFCRA is no longer mandatory are there other COVID-19 oriented leaves I should know about?
Yes, with the FFCRA currently being voluntary after 12/31/2020 and with the California Supplemental Paid Sick Leave expiring on the same date, there are several localities that have extended their COVID-19 oriented Paid Sick Leaves. For more information, below is a list of links to several localities that have expanded their COVID-19 expiration dates. This list is not exhaustive, so we recommend employers check with their local ordinances for extended COVID-19 paid sick leave considerations.
Our employee has exhausted all of their sick time and PTO due to COVID-19, are there any state programs that can compensate our employees?
The State of California’s Employment Development Department (EDD) has several benefit options if your employee is affected by COVID-19. If your employee has a partial or full loss of wages due to a non-work-related injury, illness, pregnancy, or COVID-19; your employee can certainly file a claim online for Disability Insurance (DI). Here is a link for more information on eligibility requirements. If your employee does not qualify for DI, then they can certainly apply for Unemployment Insurance (UI) through the EDD at this link here. It is important to note, that SDI and UI benefits are awarded or declined at the discretion of the EDD and not the employer.
Have more questions for us? Send them our way and we will be happy to assist. Please feel free to reach out to your Filice representative so that we can help point you in the right direction.