What You Need to Know about AB 685 and SB 1159

A Summary of California’s new COVID-19 mandates for Employers, and the changes your office needs to make today.
SB-1159 and AB-685 create new reporting requirements for workplaces

California laws SB 1159 and AB 685 are new mandates for workplace safety and reporting around COVID-19. They were signed into law on September 17, 2020 by Governor Gavin Newsom.

We’ll explain what these laws mean for your office, and what changes HR teams and organizations need to make today.

What is AB 685? 

  • Assembly Bill (“AB”) 685 creates new reporting requirements for workplaces to report COVID-19 exposures to employees and to public health authorities. It takes effect January 1, 2021 through January 1, 2023.

What is SB 1159? 

  • Senate Bill (“SB”) 1159 creates a presumption of worker’s compensation coverage for employees who get COVID-19 in the event of an outbreak at the workplace, or who work in certain industries.  It also adds new notice requirements to state authorities and went into effect immediately on September 17, 2020.

New Changes for Employers

AB 685: Written Notice of Exposure

AB 685 requires written notification within one day to employees and subcontractors who were on-premise in the same work area as someone infected with COVID-19. The notice applies to employees in the same work area during the infectious period, which starts 48 hours before symptom onset.

In addition AB-685 requires notifying your local public health agency if there is an outbreak in the workplace.

What written notice is required to employees?

Employers need to provide employees written notice if they were in the same work area as an infected person. This notice can be by email or text message, so long as there’s reasonable expectation employees will read it.

You need to know which employees to notify. This is typically people in the same building, floor, or office area where close contact could have occurred.

A sample template notice to employees for AB 685 from employers.org is available for free. Cal/OSHA also provides a sample form for employers to record and document steps taken for AB 685 and COVID-19 case investigations.

What changes does my office need to make?

For offices, this means keeping track of who’s been in the office and who might have been exposed should someone become ill. Keeping these records manually is difficult. The one day notice timeline is short. For many companies a workplace management system with contact tracing is a new necessity.

Example of contact tracing report for AB 685 compliance.
For many companies, a workplace management system with contact tracing is now a necessity.

You can learn more about AB 685 on the Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Infection Prevention Requirements page.

SB 1159: Worker’s Compensation Reporting

SB 1159 declares a presumption an employee with COVID-19 got it at work, for the purpose of worker’s compensation. Employers may dispute this if they have evidence of COVID-19 safety protocols, so the presumption is a “disputable presumption.”

The law also creates new reporting requirements, including that the worker’s compensation claims administrator is notified within three business days of when the employer is aware an employee tests positive for COVID-19.

What reporting is needed for SB 1159?

Reports need to include the addresses where the employee worked for the past 14 days, plus the highest number of employees who worked at each of those locations in the prior 45 days.

Here is an example form for SB 1159 reporting of a confirmed COVID-19 case.

SB 1159 requires reporting the highest number of employees on-premise for 45 days prior to a confirmed COVID-19 case.

More details about SB 1159 are available in the California Division of Workers’ Compensation FAQ.

Additional Information

The steps above outline what your workplace needs to do to be ready for these new laws. However, there are additional provisions employers may need to be familiar with. This article is not a substitute for legal advice.

Worksphere provides workplace management software to implement best practices for workplace management, including simplifying AB 685 and SB 1159 reporting. To learn more about how we can help in your workplace, please do Contact Us or learn more about Worksphere.

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