Newsom Signs Worker Protection Laws Tailored To Pandemic

Gov. Newsom signed two new bills into law in a ceremony over Zoom on Thursday that create new COVID-specific protections for workers.

One bill requires employers to notify Cal/OSHA and employees if they may have been exposed to the coronavirus or if there is an outbreak.

“This pandemic has affected us all essential workers in extreme ways. The stress. We’re just trying to stay alive,” said Sharon Heckler who has worked as a supermarket cashier for 47 years, but never under conditions like the pandemic. “There’s been a lot of information hidden from us, so this bill will ensure that workers like myself and all my coworkers will be able to get more information to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.”

The bill received some opposition from employers who worried about their new obligations and the potential for public shaming if workers get sick.

But the bill’s author, Assemblymember Eloise Gomez Reyes says the alternative is keeping important information under wraps.

“It will ensure that workers are informed when there has been a workplace exposure to COVID-19 as well as provide the state of California with the tools necessary to protect workers and get accurate data about outbreaks,” she said.

Newsom also signed a bill authored by State Senator Jerry Hill, which creates the presumption that employees who contract COVID-19 with two weeks of working got sick on the job, making them eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Employers can contest those claims.