Amended ETS from Cal/OSHA and June Deadline for CalSavers

It seems the only constant in California is change. Because our employment landscape continues to unfold, if you are flummoxed by the constant changes, just reach out to our team to help your business navigate the path forward.

Cal/OSHA amended ETS: Key Changes
Cal/OSHA’s Standards Board adopted another amended Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) at its late April meeting. These changes go into effect starting May 6, 2022. Key changes are summarized below.  For more information, check out this premier employment law firm alert at: AALRR Alert Cal/OSHA ETS.

  • Under the amended ETS, a COVID-19 test taken for return-to-work purposes may be both self-read and self-administered, IF independent verification of results can be provided, such as a time-stamped photo of test results.
  • Acceptable face coverings now include: a surgical mask, medical procedure mask, respirator worn voluntarily, or a tightly-woven fabric or non-woven material of at least two layers that completely cover nose and mouth and is secured with ties, ear loops, or elastic bands that go behind the head.
  • Employers are directed to follow current guidance from the CDPH regarding quarantine of close contacts, and any other measures to reduce transmission. Similarly, the amended ETS adopts the CDPH’s isolation criteria for COVID-19 cases, as well as the CDPH’s rules for quarantine and return-to-work criteria based on an employee’s vaccination status.
  • All employees, regardless of their vaccination status, need to be provided with no-cost COVID-19 testing, during paid time, if they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.  However, under the amended ETS, employers are exempt from providing such testing to “returned cases” (i.e., an asymptomatic employee who within the last 90 days recovered from COVID-19).
  • All employees – not just unvaccinated – may request a respirator for voluntary use from their employer if working indoors or in vehicles with more than one person.
  • Employees exempted from wearing a face covering when face coverings are otherwise required under the ETS and who cannot wear a non-restrictive alternative (such as a face shield) due to their medical condition, must be tested for COVID-19 weekly.
  • The amended ETS eliminates cleaning and disinfecting procedures, which currently require employers to regularly clean frequently touched surfaces and to clean and disinfect items and areas used by a COVID-19 case within their infectious period. Similarly, the definition of a “COVID-19 hazard” would no longer include a reference to objects or surfaces that may be contaminated with the virus.
  • Employers are required to test employees in the exposed group of a “major outbreak” (involving 20 or more employee COVID-19 cases in an exposed group who visited the workplace within a 30-day period), rather than simply making the testing available as per current requirements.

CalSavers deadline for small businesses is June 30

California law currently requires most employers to offer a qualified employee retirement plan (such as a 401(k)) or enroll their employees in the state-sponsored CalSavers program: CalSavers website. For employers who do not otherwise offer a qualified retirement plan option, the June 30 CalSavers deadline for businesses with five to 50 employees to enroll is fast approaching.

According to the UC Berkeley Labor Center, 61% of workers in the private sector between the ages of 25 and 64 do not have the opportunity to take advantage of a retirement plan. Those numbers have climbed in the last 25 years, prompting the state to roll out this new initiative.

The state-provided Roth IRA is an excellent opportunity for employees, better providing financial security when they retire. Employers with five or more employees must be proactive if they wish to be compliant and avoid fines, which are $250 per eligible employee 90 days after the deadline and triple to $750 per eligible employee if the non-compliance exceeds 180 days.

Employers may not be happy about the additional accounting, nor the oversight or enforcement penalties, yet retirement plans and other benefits help small businesses attract and retain top-tier talent.