CSAC Bulletin Article

AB 685 Amendments Mitigate County Concerns

August 27, 2020

The policy at the heart of AB 685 (Reyes)—that employers should notify workers and public health authorities if there has been exposure to COVID-19 at the worksite—is one with potential to improve public health by slowing the spread of the virus. However, as with many bills with laudable goals, some of the bill’s provisions would have caused significant implementation problems for those who would have to implement it. Amendments made this week, however, mitigate many of those concerns.

Under the previous version of the bill, employers who were notified of possible COVID-19 exposure at a worksite would have needed to notify all employees within 24 hours, along with union representatives and local and state public health authorities. The biggest problem with that requirement was that the notification was required to be a hand-delivered notice or a letter, and if that notice or letter would not reach the employee within 24 hours, also an email or text. There was no exception for worksites such as hospitals that treat COVID-19 patients, leading to fears that hospitals, clinics, testing sites, and others would need to mail and email every employees every day, diverting much-needed revenue from the basic services those facilities provide.

The most recent amendments, made this week, do not fix every issue counties had with the bill, but they considerably mitigate those main concerns. The bill now exempts many types of health facilities, as well as employees who actively treat or come in contact with people known or suspected to have COVID-19. Furthermore, the required notification can now be satisfied by written notice “in a manner the employer normally uses to communicate employment-related information,” and can include an email or text message. The notification period was also changed, from within 24 hours to one business day from when the employer was notified of potential exposure.

Negotiations continue on other aspects of the bill, so further amendments are still possible, though the time remaining in the legislative session is extremely short. This is one of three COVID-related bills, along with workers’ compensation protections and paid sick leave, that the Governor has indicated he would like the Legislature to send him, so passage and signature are fairly likely.

CSAC has been opposed to AB 685, but is now reconsidering that position based on the amendments and the continuing negotiations.

AB 685 is currently pending on the Senate floor. If it passes, it will return to the Assembly for concurrence of the amendments.

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