CA bill would require employers to disclose COVID-19 exposure in the workplace

Employers would be required to notify employees about possible COVID-19 exposure on the job under a new bill introduced by State Assemblymember Eloise Reyes.
LONG BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- As more people head back to work amid the COVID-19 pandemic, you may have questions about coronavirus and the workplace.

ABC7 spoke with a labor attorney to see what laws are in place when it comes to virus disclosure.

"There are no laws that specifically mandate an employer to advise their employee that someone has tested positive or that they've been exposed," said labor attorney Angela Reddock-Wright. "It's not mandated, but it's definitely advisable."

Different agencies, like Cal/OSHA, CDC and Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, advise that employers notify their employees if someone tests positive in the workplace without disclosing the infected employee's identity.

"The guidance right now is that employers should let employees know that someone in their environment, particularly if you're in close proximity to that someone, did test positive or was exposed to COVID-19," Reddock-Wright said.

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One of the issues with disclosing positive COVID-19 results in the workplace is privacy concerns.

Employees are not obligated to tell employers why they are sick, according to privacy laws.

"Employers have to balance that duty against also protecting the rights, privacy and confidentiality of any employee that has been compromised or potentially compromised," she said.

The law in the state of California could change soon.

State Assemblymember Eloise Reyes, who represents San Bernardino, introduced a bill in June that would require an employer to notify employees, Cal/OSHA and the Department of Health if an employee tests positive for COVID-19 in the workplace in California.

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According to Reyes, AB-685 addresses privacy concerns.

"The names are not going to be mentioned," Reyes said. "You will simply be told, just as we do with contact tracing now. You'll find out that you've been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19."

In Los Angeles County, workplaces are required to report outbreaks to the Department of Public Health after at least three people have tested positive for the virus.

"There is this disparity from county to county from locality to locality, from industry to industry, and we do have to have something that is going to be more uniform to protect all of California's workers," Reyes said.

AB 685 will be heard by a Senate Committee in early August.

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