September 30, 2022

COVID-19 and Federal/State Updates

U.S. State (and D.C.) Updates

California

New Legislation

Governor Newsom is keeping us busy as he signed into law the bills that we were monitoring (see this newsletter):

AB 152 has been signed and extends the COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave (SPSL) through December 31, 2022. Now, if an employee has already exhausted their SPSL allotment, employers are not required to provide more leave.

AB 152 also amended the current SPSL law slightly. Currently, employers are authorized to require an employee who tests positive to submit to another test on or after the fifth day after the first positive test and provide documentation of those results. Employers may now require, in the case of a positive test, an employee to submit to a second diagnostic test within no less than 24 hours.

An employer has no obligation to provide additional SPSL if an employee refuses to submit to testing as mentioned above.

As a reminder, the SPSL has a required workplace poster (see here). We expect a new version of the poster will be released, reflecting that the law is in effect now until December 31, 2022. We will provide a copy of the updated poster, once released.

AB 1949, also signed by the Governor, amends the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) to include bereavement leave.

Effective January 1, 2023, this bill requires public and private employers with five or more employees to provide employees with at least 30 days of service up to five unpaid days of bereavement leave upon the death of a family member.

“Family Member” is defined as a spouse or a child, parent, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, domestic partner, or parent-in-law. Leave would need to be completed within 3 months of the date of the family member’s death and does not have to be taken consecutively.

Leave must also be taken pursuant to any existing bereavement leave policy of an employer. Employers may request documentation of the death of the family member, and the employee would have to provide it within 30 days.

The Governor must have been busy as he also signed AB 1041 which expands the definition of “family member” under CFRA. Employees will be able to care for a “designated person” who has a serious health condition. “Designated person” means any individual related by blood or whose association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship. Employers may limit an employee to one designated person per 12-month period for family care and medical leave.

AB 2693, signed into law, extends the notice requirements until January 1, 2024 for employers when it comes to COVID-19 exposures in the workplace. The existing law was due to sunset as of January 1, 2023. The notice requirements have been amended as follows:

Currently, employers are required to notify employees of potential COVID-19 exposure within one business day of the notice of potential exposure.

As of January 1st, employers may satisfy the notification requirements by prominently displaying a notice where other notices to employees are displayed. The notice must include the date(s) on which an employee(s) with a confirmed case of COVID-19 was on the workplace premises. The notice must be posted for 15 days. Employers would be required to keep a log of all the dates the notice was posted (and allow the Labor Commissioner to access the log).

Currently, employers are required to notify the local public health agency within 48 hours when the number of cases meets the definition of a COVID-19 outbreak (20 or more employee COVID-19 cases in an exposed group).

As of January 1st, the one business day notification provision is removed.

And finally, SB 951 was signed September 30, 2022 by Governor Newsom. This bill removes the taxable wage ceiling (the maximum amount from which contributions to State Disability Insurance are taken) starting January 1, 2024. We will be discussing in coming months the impact this change will have on our clients who have Voluntary Plans as well as the impact on those who may wish to implement one in the future.

The bill extends the current benefit percentage of 60% or 70% (based on earnings) to January 1, 2025. As of January 1, 2025, the benefit percentage will increase to 90% for lower wage earners (those earning 70% or less than the state average quarterly wage).

Department of Industrial Relations (Cal/OSHA)

California has been hit hard (over 4,500 cases) by the Monkeypox (MPX) virus compared to other states and Cal-OSHA has released guidance for employers that you can find here. The guidance only applies to workplaces that are covered by the Aerosol Transmissible Disease standard (hospitals, long term health care facilities, police services, etc.), but may be useful for other employers.

San Francisco

As a reminder, the new Public Health Emergency Leave Ordinance goes into effect on October 1, 2022. Voters passed Proposition G in June and the ordinance requires employers (with 100 or more employees worldwide) to provide paid leave for public health emergencies. See our June 17, 2022 newsletter for further details.

District of Columbia

As we discussed over the last several months, the District’s Universal Paid Leave was budgeted for several changes: removal of the waiting period, longer durations for parental, family, and medical leave, and a lower contribution rate for employers. You can read more here and here. In case you were wondering, the budget bill (B24-0714) has passed congressional review and is now official law (number L24-0167, effective from September 21, 2022). Therefore, as a reminder, the increase in duration to 12 weeks for parental, family, and medical leave takes effect on October 1, 2022.

Oregon

Paid Leave Oregon has released some new tools for both employers and employees:

  • Printable brochures in English and Spanish. They are asking employers to provide the brochures to your employees to inform them about Paid Leave Oregon. *The brochures are not the official notice or poster.
  • Who wouldn’t want instant updates and all the news about Paid Leave Oregon? Now you can get both from Paid Leave Oregon’s social media pages: FacebookTwitter, and Instagram! Tell your employees, coworkers, and your friends!
  • If you would like to learn even more, there are also YouTube videos – short summaries of important topics.

If you recall, the Oregon Employment Department has a new online portal called Frances Online for submitting contributions, payroll reports, and more. If you need any help with the portal, they have a Frances Online resources page.

New York City

Mayor Eric Adams recently announced that the city’s COVID-19 vaccine requirement for private sector workers will end on November 1, 2022. The mandate was initially implemented by former Mayor, Bill de Blasio.

Canada Federal Update

The Employment Insurance (EI) program made temporary changes during the COVID-19 pandemic that have expired as of September 25, 2022. The number of insurable employment hours will revert to the pre-pandemic requirement of 600 (was lowered to 420 during the pandemic). Note, this was for special benefits (i.e., sickness, caregiver, maternity, and parental).

Another temporary change was that any monies paid upon separation from a job was not deducted from EI benefits – this has also expired. On a side note, the federal government is working on drafting changes to EI – more to come.

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