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AB 685 - COVID-19 Notification Requirement and How to Avoid a $25,000 Mistake

Del Ross
Posted by Del Ross on January 7, 2021

Assembly Bill 685 (AB 685) becomes effective on January 1, 2021, impacting all California employers. The bill requires a notice to employees and local health departments regarding COVID-19 exposure or outbreaks. California employers must understand how to comply with the bill, so they don't suffer fines, which can be up to $25,000 per violation.

What Is AB 685?

AB 685 is a hot topic for California hotel operators, and our team recently hosted a webinar on the subject, going over the bill and answering questions. Be sure to check out the recording for more information. 

There are two parts of AB 685, which will be effective from January 1, 2021 – January 1, 2023. The first part defines employee notification, and the second relates to reporting outbreaks to the health department.

Part One: Employee Notifications

Requirements and definitions regarding employee notification include:

  • A “qualifying employee” that would elicit compliance includes:
    • Those with a lab confirmed case of COVID-19, per the State Department of Public Health.
    • Those with a positive COVID-19 diagnosis from a licensed healthcare provider.
    • Those with a COVID-19-related order to isolate provided by a public health official.
    • Those who died due to COVID-19, as determined by the county public health department. 
  • Notification must occur within one day after the employer learns of a positive employee.
  • Employees requiring notification include full-time employees, temp workers, subcontractors, or others that work for a tenant on-site that worked with or near the positive employee.
  • The message to employees must be written but can use any channel (letter, email, text, apps, etc.).
  • The notice must be in English as well as the language most understood by a majority of employees.
  • The law also states that those to be notified had exposure to the positive employee within the “infectious period.” A definition of this period is not part of the law. It instead refers to the definition by the State Department of Public Health, which is 14 days.

In addition to the notice of exposure, the content must include:

  • Information about an employee’s benefits under federal, state, or local law, such as sick leave or health benefits. 
  • Anti-retaliation and anti-discriminatory protections for employees.
  • The company’s disinfection and safety plan to mitigate the exposure, which must be in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC).
  • Any changes to the employee’s schedule or responsibilities relating to the disinfection and safety plan. 

You will be required to keep these notifications and proof of employee receipt for three years. 

Part Two: Outbreak Notifications to Local Health Department 

The measures in this notification include:

  • Notification within 48 hours of an outbreak. The notice must employee names, phone numbers, occupations, and worksite address.
  • An outbreak is at least three laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 positives of employees within a two-week period that live in separate households.
  • Companies must also report any subsequent positive tests for employees.
  • If the worksite is union-related, union leaders must receive a notification, as well. 

What Happens with AB 685 Non-Compliance?

Non-compliance with AB 685 has steep penalties. First, you can face fines of up to $25,000 per violation. Second, the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal-OSHA) has the authority to shut down a workplace in whole or in part that it considers an imminent hazard to employees. It does not require any notice of these actions. Typically, Cal-OSHA provides a 15-day advance notice of violations, allowing companies to take corrective action. That doesn’t apply with AB 685.

Preparing for AB 685: Notification Options

Organizations use various communication channels to inform employees, but most of the traditional ones leave you open to risk with AB 685. Here’s why:

  • Breakroom notices: There is no way to determine who saw or read the notice, and you must track receipt to comply.
  • Text messaging: This channel requires businesses to have personal phone numbers, which they must keep secure because they are personally identifiable information (PII). You also cannot guarantee read receipts.
  • Email: In the case of hotel workers, many don’t have a company email address. You’d have to use personal email addresses, which are also PII, and employees don’t have to provide this to you. 
  • Oral notification: To verbally communicate with your employees, they’d have to all come to the workplace within that one day. They would also have to sign a logbook that they received the notification. This becomes complex and not feasible quickly. 
  • What’s App: Many hotels use the app to communicate, but it’s not a secure app, so that’s a problem. Also, since people don’t use their real names, how will you know you sent it to all qualified employees?
  • Certified mail: This would satisfy all requirements but would be very costly. 

In looking at all these traditional channels, none seem to really provide you what you need. Ultimately, you need a tool that’s fast, easy, inexpensive, secure, and logs read receipts. 

PerfectEngage™ Checks All the Boxes

PerfectEngage™ is a communication tool built for the hotel industry. You can share announcements quickly and securely while also receiving notification that the message was read, not just received. You can monitor those read receipts and store this documentation in the platform should you need it to prove compliance. 

Learn more about PerfectEngage™ and how it can satisfy AB 685 requirements. 

Topics: Labor Costs, reports