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Top Employment Law Issues That May Arise From COVID-19

Note as always the information contained herein is for information purposes only.

Top Employment Law Issues That May Arise From COVID-19

As California employers begin to ask employees to come back to work, there are important legal considerations everyone should be keeping in mind. This blog will provide you with a basic understanding of how some of the California labors law can be enforced on matters related to COVID-19.

How much, if any, paid sick leave is available for employees due to COVID-19 illness?

The California and Federal legislators have passed paid sick leave requirements of employers directly related to COVID-19. Under the California COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave, full time employees working in the food sector are entitled to 80 hours of paid leave related to COVID complications. For part time workers, the number of hours of sick leave is the number of hours the worker is normally scheduled to work in a normal work week. While this paid sick leave only applies to certain food sector workers, other employees are still entitled to use their normal paid sick leave hours for any coronavirus related illness.

Can employers ask their workers about recent travel to high-risk exposure countries?

Yes, employers can request that their employees inform them if they plan to, or already have, traveled to countries considered high-risk by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is important for employers to be aware of any exposure to their workplace so that they can ensure a safe work environment. However, an employee still has rights to medical privacy and employers have limitations regarding inquiries into an employee’s medical affairs.

What kind of retaliation claims may arise as a result of COVID-19 matters?

The California Labor Code has several laws in place that protect workers from retaliation if they suffer an adverse employment action for exercising their labor rights. With respect to Coivd-19, an employee may have a claim for retaliation if an employer punishes or terminates an employee for trying to take paid sick leave, or time off related to care for another, when Covid-19 is the causal factor.

Another situation may arise if an employer takes adverse action against an employee who the employer believes has disclosed a violation of state, federal, or local law. In this regard, the employee’s belief about the information is important in this context. If the employee goes around disclosing employer information that they know may not be entirely accurate, they may not succeed in a retaliation claim if the employer later acts in response.

Are there any worksite investigation laws related to COVID-19 that employers should be aware of?

Yes, an employer should make sure to follow and stay up to date with OSHA and Cal-OSHA requirements to provide safe work environments. Below are links to OSHA and Cal-OSHA that provide guidance to employers on various requirements due in the work place during the pandemic.



The main takeaway from the updated OSHA enforcement policy that went into place on May 19, 2020, is the record keeping requirements of COVID-19 workplace cases. “OSHA is revising its previous enforcement policy for recording cases of coronavirus. Under OSHA’s recordkeeping requirements, coronavirus is a recordable illness, and employers are responsible for recording cases of the coronavirus, if the case:

· Is confirmed as a coronavirus illness;

· Is work-related as defined by 29 CFR 1904.5; and

· Involves one or more of the general recording criteria in 29 CFR 1904.7, such as medical treatment beyond first aid or days away from work.”

Are there any wage and hour requirements that are specific to COVID-19?

While there haven’t been any recent specific legislative changes made to wage and hour laws specifically related to COVID-19, there are some common types of wage and hour claims that may arise more frequently during the pandemic.

- Reimbursements: California Labor Code Section 2802(a) requires employers to reimburse employees for all out of pocket expenses the employee incurs during their job performance. Keep in mind that these expenses include cell phone use, and a litany of other minor unanticipated expenses.

- Meal and Rest break violations: California Labor Code requires employers to provide employees a meal break no later than their 5th hour of work, and 10-minute rest period breaks for employees whose shifts are at least from 3.5 hours to 6 hours long. While working from home has already provided a comfy work environment, employers must still ensure that their workers are taking the proper meal and rest breaks.


As long as the coronavirus pandemic continues to put pressure on the California economy, there will be structural changes in the workplace. If you find yourself in an employment dispute, you should immediately seek out a qualified California employment attorney to assist you. In this regard, Perleberg McClaren LLP has decades of experience working in all avenues of employment law and have the necessary skills to help you ensure your rights are being protected.


(323) 741-6500

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