A Los Angeles labor lawyer gave the Los Alamitos Chamber of Commerce an overview of how much employment law has changed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic Thursday at their monthly networking meeting.
“Since COVID, guidelines have changed rapidly, sometimes weekly, sometimes day-to-day and sometimes, hour-to-hour, attorney Ashley N. Lopeztello told the Chamber at its virtual May networking meeting Thursday.
So much so, said Lopeztello, that it’s been really hard for businesses, especially small businesses, to keep up with the changes.
While California has been a “trendsetter” during the pandemic, she said not so much with the reopening. Lopeztello did tell business owners to watch for a preview of what to expect on June 15 when a new “Emergency Temporary Standards” declaration is expected to be issued by state.
Lopeztello said the rules and regulations will change again when the state issues new standards associated with the lifting of pandemic restrictions expected to be announced June 15 by Gov. Gavin Newsom.
“They will be replacing regulations with more regulations,” she said.
Lopeztello gave Chamber members attending the meeting a primer on existing standards and what they mean for business owners, including what workers can demand under COVID rules and the standards all businesses must provide for in terms of employee safety.
She gave employers checklists on what to do if an employee were to test positive with COVID, whether in the office or not. Lopeztello said “you have to know what to do when they tell us they’ve contracted COVID.”
Three or more cases within the same office is considered an outbreak, she said.
Lopeztello reviewed testing protocols with the employers and procedures, compensation rules and various reporting requirements.
For example, Lopeztello told employers that under current emergency standards, they must contact their workman’s compensation carrier within three days of any employee’s positive COVID test.
Moreover, she said face coverings and vaccinations were also an issue. For instance, if an employee refuses or chooses not be vaccinated, employers must provide them with an N-95 mask for protection.
She warned employers not to get trapped by only following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). She said they only issue “guidance” and employers should follow federal, state and local laws, in that order.
While the courthouses themselves are still closed, lawsuits can be filed, she said, and California leads the nation in COVID employment litigation. Of the approximately 2,500 lawsuits filed, she said 584 of them were filed by California employees.
There are specific regulations that employers must utilize if employees are afraid to return to the office, Lopeztello told the Chamber.
In addition, she outlined to employers the specific protocols they must follow regarding having employees return to the office and those surrounding vaccinated, and non-vaccinated employees.
“I know it’s really difficult to keep up,” she said.
Lopeztello is an attorney at the California Labor Law firm of CDF Labor Law where she provides litigation and advisory services to public and private clients. She provided a website where employers can receive basic information: www.cdflaborlaw.com/coronavirus.
The Chamber also received a video presentation from Chuck Landon of Landon HR consulting, regarding human resource issues surrounding pandemic issues.
Finally, Chamber Chairwoman Nesi Stewart announced that next month, the Chamber will take its first steps to return to in-person meetings, saying the June meeting will be held under the trees in Rossmoor’s Rush Park.