By Sylvia V. Panosian
As some California businesses prepare to re-open, they should be aware of the Government’s requirements and guidelines regarding risk assessment, protection plans, employee trainings and additional steps for their safe re-opening. On May 4, 2020, the Governor’s Executive Order announced that as California moves to allow reopening of lower-risk businesses and spaces (“Stage Two”), and later the reopening of higher-risk businesses and spaces (“Stage Three”), they may do so under new modifications and guidance provided by the State Public Health Officer’s May 7, 2020 Public Health Order.
The Public Health Order announced that all local health jurisdictions in the state may begin gradual movement into Stage Two. However, each jurisdiction will have some discretion regarding the transition. On the one hand, a given jurisdiction may implement or continue more restrictive public health measures if they believe it is warranted. On the other hand, the California Department of Health has also set forth criteria to help local health officers assess their jurisdiction’s ability to move through Stage Two more quickly than the State as a whole, and reopen additional low-risk businesses before the rest of the state if they choose to do so. Importantly, for businesses wondering if they are one of those that can reopen, the Public Health Order notes that “a list of the sectors, businesses, establishments, or activities, and any necessary modifications, that such a qualifying jurisdiction may choose to reopen will be available” here. For now, the jurisdictions that have met the criteria to move through Stage Two of the resilience roadmap, and have been approved for accelerated reopening, can be found here.
The Government’s Statewide Industry Guidance page provides that, if permitted to re-open, each business facility must do the following:
- Perform a detailed risk assessment and implement a site-specific protection plan
- Train employees on how to limit the spread of COVID-19, including how to screen themselves for symptoms and stay home if they have them
- Implement individual control measures and screenings
- Implement disinfecting protocols
- Implement physical distancing guidelines
Additionally, if an employee needs to self-isolate because of COVID-19, that employee should be encouraged to stay at home, with supporting sick leave policies in place.
The Government has instructed businesses to review the guidance that is relevant to their workplace or business sector, prepare a plan based on the guidance for their industry, and then put it into action. The steps outlined above are addressed in detail for each specific industry within that industry’s guideline page. For now, industries with posted guidelines and checklists can be found here, and include agriculture and livestock, auto dealerships, child care, communications infrastructure, construction, delivery services, energy and utilities, food packing, hotels and lodging, life sciences, limited services, logistics and warehouse facilities, manufacturing, mining and logging, outdoor museums, office workspaces, places of worship, ports, public transit and intercity passenger rail, real estate transaction, retail, and shopping centers. For regions approved to move more quickly through Stage Two, hair salons, barber shops, and dine-in restaurants may also reopen with modifications. Their guidelines and checklists can be found here: https://covid19.ca.gov/safer-economy/
A careful reading of these guidelines is important, as they provide direction on a number of modifications for the safe re-opening of the business in question, including the requirement that some businesses post checklists to show customers and employees that they have reduced risks and are open for business. Moreover, the guidelines cross-reference additional applicable guidelines and safe practices provided by other government agencies such as Cal/OSHA, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the CDC, which should also be carefully reviewed and implemented.
As Governor Newson indicated during his update over the Memorial Day weekend, in addition to the statewide guidance and modifications, the regional variances allow for adjustments and announcements related to guidelines on a regional basis as well. However, they are making modifications in real-time and not waiting for news conferences to announce them. Therefore, employers in all California counties should continue to monitor changes in the law and consult with legal counsel regarding updates to the employer’s obligations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and safe business re-openings. Please contact Sylvia V. Panosian or Klinedinst’s employment team if you have any questions.
About the Author
Sylvia V. Panosian is an attorney in the firm’s Los Angeles office where she represents clients in general liability, employment, and business litigation in both state and federal courts. Ms. Panosian has practiced civil litigation in a range of issues, including gender violence, sexual harassment, assault/battery, whistleblower, disability, age, race, gender, and sexual orientation discrimination, as well as wage and hour violations for individual wage cases and PAGA actions.
Klinedinst is the go-to firm for clients looking for litigation, trial experience, transactional representation, and legal counsel. The firm’s offices in Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego, Irvine, and Seattle service the entire West Coast. What sets Klinedinst apart is the relationship our attorneys foster with each and every client. Klinedinst lawyers are indispensable strategic partners to business leaders, helping to achieve business objectives and create proactive solutions to resolve the many legal challenges that businesses are confronted with every day. Whether vigorously advocating for business clients in court, or guiding business transactions and negotiations, Klinedinst is the trusted legal advisor to have by your side.
This article is intended to be for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute legal advice. The law is constantly changing and the information may not be complete or correct depending on the date of the article and your particular legal problem. The use of information from this article does not create any type of attorney-client relationship.