Employer-Questions-about-AB-685 Employer Questions about AB 685, California’s New COVID-19 Law

Note: Asof January 1, 2023, many provisions of AB 685 described below are no longer in effect or have been amended. Employers should consult Labor Code 6409.6 and the Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Prevention Non-Emergency Regulations to ensure that they are in compliance with current requirements regarding employee notification of COVID-19 cases in the workplace. This guidance is no longer in effect and is for historical purposes only.    

Employer Questions about AB 685, California’s New COVID-19 Law

What is AB 685?

AB 685 (Chapter 84, Statutes of 2020) is a California law signed by Governor Gavin Newsom in September 2020 and amended in 2021 via AB 654 (Chapter 522, Statutes of 2021). The law:

  • Requires employers to notify employees who may have been exposed to COVID-19 and to report workplace outbreaks to the local health department.
  • Requires the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) to publicly report information on workplace outbreaks by industry.

What information am I required to give workers?

Upon identifying a COVID-19 case in the workplace, you must provide the following information to your employees, the employer of subcontracted workers, and any labor representative:

  1. Notice of possible exposure to COVID-19
    Provide written notice of the dates that an individual with COVID-19 was at the worksite. Do not share information that could identify the affected individual. 
  2. Information about benefits & options
    Provide information about COVID-19 benefits under federal, state, or local laws. This includes workers' compensation, company sick leave, state-mandated leave, supplemental sick leave, negotiated leave, and anti-retaliation and anti-discrimination protections.
  3. Disinfection & safety plans
    Provide the disinfection and COVID-19 safety plans for the worksite.

How and when should workers be notified?

You must provide a written notice within 1 business day of receiving notification of potential exposure to COVID-19 at the worksite. The written notice can be hand delivered or given by email or text message and should be in both English and any other language understood by the majority of employees.

Which workers must be notified?

All employees and employers of any subcontracted employees who were at the same worksite [1] as the person diagnosed with COVID-19 during their infectious period [2] must be notified.

When am I required to report COVID-19 cases to the local health department?

Non-healthcare workplaces must report COVID-19 outbreaks to the local health department. Outbreaks are defined as 3 or more COVID-19 cases among workers at the same worksite within a 14-day period.
Once this threshold is met, you have 48 hours or one business day, whichever is later, to report to the local health department in the jurisdiction where the worksite is located.

You also must continue to notify the local health department of additional COVID-19 cases identified among workers at the worksite.

Healthcare facilities that are exempt from AB 685's mandate to report outbreaks to local health departments should follow CDPH reporting guidance for healthcare facilities.

What information am I required to report to the local health department?

  1. Information about the worksite – name of company/institution, business address, and North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) industry code.
  2. Names and occupations of workers with COVID-19.
  3. Any additional information requested by the local health department as part of their investigation.

How should I share this information with the local health department?

Contact the local health department in the jurisdiction where your business is located to determine how they would like to receive information, and who the best contact is for workplace outbreak reporting. This process varies by local health department, so it is important to contact them for more information.

  • Some local health departments may use online tools, such as the Shared Portal for Outbreak Tracking (SPOT), for employers to share information about outbreaks.
  • Some local health departments may use other tools, such as secure email or fax, for outbreak reporting.

How do local health departments and CDPH use this information?

Local health departments will review information you share and can work with you to address the outbreak. Depending on the situation, they may request additional information, share resources with you, and/or provide you with additional guidance and instruction. It is very important that you work closely with them and follow their direction to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission in the workplace. Local health departments will also share information about workplace COVID-19 outbreaks with CDPH.

CDPH is required under AB 685 to share information about COVID-19 workplace outbreaks by industry on its website.

Who qualifies as a COVID-19 case?

Under AB 685, a COVID-19 case is someone who:

  • Has a positive viral test for COVID-19 [3],
  • Is diagnosed with COVID-19 by a licensed health care provider,
  • Is ordered to isolate for COVID-19 by a public health official, OR
  • Dies due to COVID-19, as determined by a public health department.

If you are notified of individual(s) in your workplace who meet any of those criteria, you must notify workers and the local health department as described above.

Which employers have to follow AB 685?

All public and private employers in California must follow AB 685 except:

  • Certain types of healthcare and social service facilities that are already subject to other reporting requirements are not subject to AB 685 requirements for reporting outbreaks to local health departments. These facilities, which are listed in California Labor Code section 6409.6(h), must continue to follow existing reporting requirements. All other AB 685 requirements apply to these facilities, including notifying employees about potential exposure to COVID-19.

Where can I find more information about AB 685 and COVID-19 in the workplace?

[1] "Worksite" means the building, store, facility, agricultural field, or other location where a worker worked during the infectious period. It does not apply to buildings, floors, or other locations of the employer that a qualified individual did not enter, locations where the worker worked by themselves without exposure to other employees, or to a worker's personal residence or alternative work location chosen by the worker when working remotely. In a multi-worksite environment, the employer need only notify employees who were at the same worksite as the qualified individual (Labor Code 6409.6(d)(7)).

[2] See CDPH guidance and relevant FAQs  for definition of "infectious period."

[3] At time of writing, this includes molecular and antigen tests. See CDPH Testing Guidance for additional information about COVID-19 testing.

Originally Published on October 16, 2020