Governor Gavin Newsom recently announced that he has authorized “expedited enforcement authority” to California governmental agencies in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. When asked for clarification, the government spokesman issued a non-answer response. California employers are left without answers or clarification as to what Governor Newsom intends to do.
A likely answer is that Cal/OSHA’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health will increase inspections on agricultural, meat packing, and food processing businesses within high-risk counties. On July 28, we issued a notice stating that Cal/OSHA and the Labor Commissioner have begun strategically targeted investigations into high-risk industries with expedited enforcement action. Fines for violations begin at $5,000.
DOSH is currently conducting targeted operations to issue fines to agricultural and food processing employers for unsatisfactory IIPPs. Likewise, it is strictly enforcing the Governor’s mask mandate, even for outdoor workers that are socially distanced greater than six feet apart.
In order to enforce his draconian rules, Governor Newsom has created a “strike force” consisting of DOSH, the Department of Public Health, the California Office of Emergency Services, and several other agencies throughout the Central Valley.
DOSH has threatened strict enforcement for employers that do not comply with its mercurial rules. DOSH requires employers to:
1. Modify their worksites to allow people to be at least six feet apart or install effective barriers;
2. Provide employees with enough time and supplies to disinfect common surfaces;
3. Encourage employees to wash their hands frequently, and provide enough time and supplies to do it properly;
4. Provide employees with face coverings or allow them to use their own and reimburse them for the cost;
5. Screen workers for COVID-19 symptoms; and
6. Ensure workers stay home if they feel ill and inform them about sick leave benefits.
Given the continually changing legal landscape, we strongly encourage employers to reach out to Raimondo & Associates with questions regarding specific situations. We are closely monitoring these developments. Because of these frequent developments, and the need to adapt the general guidance below to specific circumstances, employers should consult counsel regarding specific circumstances. There are many nuances and fact-specific elements that make individualized legal counsel on these questions of critical importance.