California COVID-19: AB 685
Oct 23, 2020

COVID-19: imminent hazard to employees: exposure: notification: serious violations.

On September 17, 2020, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 685 into law, establishing new notice and reporting requirements for employers after becoming aware of a COVID-19 exposure in the workplace.

The new law eases the pre-citation requirements that the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) must follow before issuing a citation for a serious violation related to COVID-19. The new law will be effective from Jan. 1, 2021 until Jan. 1, 2023.

Gov. Newsom also signed SB 1159 on September 17, 2020. SB 1159 sets the ground rules for workers’ compensation presumptions concerning employees who contract COVID-19 in the workplace. Please click here to read our overview of CA SB 1159 and continue reading to review the different components and requirements of each bill.

Please note: Because AB 685 does not address workers’ compensation; this bill will have no effect on our clients’ loss reporting process to Gallagher Bassett. 


AB 685 Overview

Notification to Employees and Subcontractors

Employers are required to take the following action within one business day of a “potential exposure” of COVID-19 in the workplace:

  • Provide written notice to all employees and employers of subcontracted employees, who were at the worksite of the qualifying individual within the infectious period and may have been exposed to COVID-19;
  • Provide written notice to employee representatives, including unions, who may represent employees;
  • Provide written notice to employees and/or employee representatives regarding COVID-19-related benefits that employees may receive, including workers’ compensation benefits, COVID-19 leave, paid sick leave, and the company’s anti-retaliation and anti-discrimination policies; and
  • Provide notice to employees, the employers of subcontracted employees, and employee representatives regarding the company’s disinfection protocols and safety plan that the company plans to implement and complete to prevent further exposures, per CDC guidelines.


Reporting to the Local Public Health Agency

Employers are required to report prescribed information to the local public health agency in the jurisdiction of the worksite within 48 hours of learning of a COVID-19 outbreak. 

This information includes name, number, occupation and worksite of the qualifying individual, along with the business address and NAICS code of the worksite. 

During an outbreak, the employer is required to give notice of any subsequent confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the Worksite.


Cal/OSHA Enforcement Changes

Cal/OSHA now has the authority to close down a business if it deems there is an “imminent hazard” related to potential COVID-19 transmission.  The law does not prescribe a specific level or type of exposure to COVID-19 that may create an imminent hazard and instead leaves that up to Cal/OSHA.

The law also relaxed the notice requirements for serious citations related to COVID-19.  Under the new modification, the agency can immediately issue citations for serious violations related to COVID-19 without giving employers a 15-day notice before issuance. 


A Comparison

AB 685 (Hazard to Employees) v SB 1159 (Work Comp Presumption)


AB 685

SB 1159

Employer to Notify

  • Employees
  • Employers of subcontracted employees
  • Employee representatives


Third Party Administrator

Required Employer Knowledge

Notice of potential exposure to COVID-19:

  • qualifying individual tested COVID-19 positive or
  • has COVID-19 diagnosis

Employer knows or should have known an employee tested positive for COVID-19

Notification Within:

One business day

Three business days

Definition of worksite /

specific place of employment

Worksite means the building, store, facility or other location, including the floor(s), the qualifying individual worked during infectious period.

Specific place of employment is a building, store, or facility where the employee performed work.

Definition of outbreak








Three or more laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 within a two-week period among workers who live in different households, defined by the Dept. of Public Health;


Four employees who test positive for COVID-19 at a location (if 100 employees, or 4% of employees if over 100 employees);

Or as defined by the worksite’s jurisdictional local public health department

Or specific place of employment is ordered to close by local public health department, Dept. of Public Health, Cal/OSHA, or school superintendent due to COVID-19


Is there a reporting requirement to public health agency?

Yes, within 48 hours of learning of a COVID-19 outbreak





Gallagher Bassett Is Here To Help

Employer Contact Tracing:

Our employer contact tracing solution is supported by a robust series of processes with rigorous oversight, quality control, detailed data capture and reporting, all housed in a secure environment. We are prepared not only to help you and your team return to the workplace, but also to remain in the workplace in the weeks and months ahead. Click here to learn more.


The Road to Re-Occupancy:

No matter where you are in your journey, Gallagher Bassett is here to help you navigate the road back to re-occupancy. We invite you to explore Gallagher Bassett’s Re-occupancy Roadmap to help create your plan, prepare your workplace and get you back to business safely.  Click here to access our resources.



Although we have gathered information relevant to COVID-19 and its impact to worker’ compensation claims and your businesses, this is not legal advice, it does not include all pertinent information, nor should it be the basis for legal, claim benefit safety, or human-resource-related decisions. If you would like guidance on legal issues arising from COVID-19, including notification or reporting requirements or whether a COVID-19 related claim is compensable under a specific state’s law, please seek advice from legal counsel with expertise in the relevant subject areas and state laws.

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