California to maintain workplace pandemic rules through 2022

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California workplace regulators on Thursday extended mandatory pay for coronavirus-affected workers through the end of 2022, acting more than two months after state lawmakers reinstated similar benefits until September.

The ruling again pitted management against unions as the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Commission renewed revised workplace safety rules that would otherwise have expired in early May.

“I don’t think we’re done with this,” board chairman David Thomas said of the pandemic.

“There is going to be an increase in about a week,” added Thomas. “It’s the best… protection we have.”

Unlike members of the public who can choose their own risk tolerance, Stock said, “people who are in the workplace…have no choice but to be there.”

Management representative Kate Crawford said the rules caused confusion as she cast the only ‘no’ in a 6-1 vote.

Retaining what is known as an “exclusion pay” for workers who are sent home due to the coronavirus is both costly and confusing, especially since the Legislature recently approved sick leave COVID-19, said Rob Moutrie, policy advocate at the California Chamber of Commerce. ,

Small businesses especially struggled with the requirement, Moutrie said. The Cal/OSHA rule applies to nearly every workplace in the state, covering office, factory, and retail workers, while the state’s sick leave law does not apply. applies only to businesses with 26 or more employees.

The debate comes as the highly transmissible omicron BA.2 variant becomes dominant in California and the United States, threatening a new wave of infections.

The state’s case rate has increased by a third and test positivity has doubled since late March. Hospitalizations and intensive care patients remain at or near their lows for the pandemic. But state models predict hospitalizations will rise from less than 1,000 now to nearly 1,400 in another month, while ICU admissions will start to climb in early May.

Republican state lawmakers welcomed the cancellation, citing repeated issues reported at the facility, including testing delays and quality control.

“This lab has failed to serve Californians, and the state has delayed accountability for months,” said Senate Republican Leader Scott Wilk.

State health officials said Thursday they are now relying more on an alternate form of testing and on efforts that tie positive test results to immediate treatment. But they said the state would maintain the capacity to test up to 500,000 people a day through a network of labs as part of the state’s rapid response plan to future coronavirus outbreaks.

Los Angeles County said Thursday it will continue to require masks for travelers on public transit and inside domestic transportation hubs, including Los Angeles International Airport and others. airports as well as bus terminals and train stations.

Also on Thursday, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer and Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón announced two settlements totaling nearly $26.5 million related to allegations of bogus COVID testing. -19 and false advertisements by Sameday Technologies, based in Venice, Calif., doing business as Sameday Health, which operates 55 testing sites nationwide.

Sameday Health said the issues arose “amid the chaos of massive increases in demand for services” at the start of the pandemic, but it said it has since corrected the issues.

Renewed workplace regulations require employers to continue paying workers’ wages and maintain their seniority and other benefits for as long as they cannot work due to exposure or infection to a coronavirus, unless they are receiving disability benefits or the employer can prove the close contact was not work-related.

“It is important that employees who are COVID-19 cases do not come to work,” Cal/OSHA said.

The state’s sick leave law differs in that it offers employees up to a week of paid leave if they catch the coronavirus or care for a sick family member. They are only entitled to a second week off if they or their family members test positive.

There is a troubling provision in the revised Cal/OSHA paid vacation rules that is not in current regulations, said Mitch Steiger, a legislative attorney with the California Labor Federation.

Currently, an employee who had close contact with an infected worker is also sent home, with pay. But the revised rules may keep them working until they are positive.

“The employer could force that person to stay at work and interact with co-workers, members of the public and immunocompromised people and whoever until that person tests positive,” Steiger said ahead of the ruling. advice.

“The further back we go, the more space we give the virus to spread,” he said.

Agribusiness representatives have objected that workplace rules give employers two choices when dealing with an outbreak of three or more coronavirus cases if an employee comes into close contact. The employee must either test negative or be given a week’s paid leave if they refuse to be tested.

“You encourage people not to get tested,” Michael Miiller, director of government relations for the California Association of Winegrape Growers, told the board.


Associated Press writer Stefanie Dazio contributed to this story from Los Angeles.

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