Millions of Californians who are back at work or are preparing to return for the first time since the start of the 2020 pandemic fear for their safety on the job.
As the guidance from state and local leaders evolves and changes, the NBC4 I-Team spoke to employment attorney Dominic Messiha about the responsibilities of employers and employees in the workplace.
One big question often asked by employees: is how much information are employers obligated to share after a positive COVID-19 test result at a workplace?
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"The medical privacy laws come into place," said Messiha, co-founder of LA-based Empower Law. "Really, the rule is that the minimum amount of information necessary in order to protect the safety of the workforce ought to be disclosed, so it can be a person work in "y" facility at "z" time. It can be the employer who themselves, because of shift schedules, knows who may have been exposed to that person, and those employees can be notified rather than notifying the entire workforce as a whole."
Workers have a moral obligation to share information that could impact public health as well, Messiha said.
"If an employee has symptoms, if that employee has been exposed, if that employee has tested positive and is asymptomatic, that employee should let the employer know," he said.
According to California law employees who ask for safety equipment and question safety measures at their workplace can do so without fear of retaliation, and immigration and citizenship status cannot be considered with workplace issues.
"If you are an employee here in California you have the right to be heard, you have the right to speak out," Messiha said. "And you have an obligation as an employer to listen to your employees."
For a list a list of workplaces in LA County that have reported outbreaks of COVID-19, click here.
Coronavirus resources for employers and workers.
Cal/OSHA interim general guidelines on protecting workers from COVID-19.
FAQs on laws enforced by the California Labor Commissioner's Office.