By Jaimee K. Wellerstein, Esq.
Annette M. Barber, Esq.
With cases of COVID-19 rising in Los Angeles, on April 7, 2020, City of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti issued two new COVID-19-related Public Orders to provide further protections for Los Angeles workers. The Worker Protection Order mandates that essential workers wear employer-provided face coverings, while also authorizing businesses to refuse service to customers who aren’t wearing them.
In addition, whereas federal emergency legislation (the Families First Coronavirus Response Act) previously addressed emergency paid sick leave for employers with fewer than 500 employees, it was silent as to employers with more than 500 employees. On April 7, 2020, Mayor Garcetti signed a City of Los Angeles Public Order implementing supplemental paid sick leave for COVID-19 reasons applicable to Los Angeles businesses with more than 500 employees.
Also, on April 10, 2020, the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health issued a revised Safer At Home Order, extending the prior order to May 15, 2020, and requiring all essential businesses to provide face coverings for employees. Further, essential businesses must prepare and post a Social Distancing Protocol by 11:59 pm on April 15, 2020. The Order also requires all residents of the County to wear a face covering when entering any essential business.
The key elements of the three Public Orders are summarized below.
City of Los Angeles Worker Protection Order
Effective April 10, 2020, all employers of essential workers must provide at the employer’s expense, non-medical grade face coverings for their employees that cover the employee’s nose and mouth while performing their work. The face coverings should not be medical grade face coverings, but rather fabric coverings. They can be a bandana or scarf and if re-useable, must be washed daily by the employee. If single use, they should be properly discarded.
Employers must also provide essential workers the ability to wash their hands at least every 30 minutes and employers must make sure that employees have access to clean, sanitary restrooms stocked with all necessary cleansing products, or sanitizing agents. Further, social distancing measures must be implemented for customers, visitors and employees that provides a six-foot buffer, to the extent possible, between individuals.
This Order applies to all workers who work at businesses or perform services that are exempt from the City of Los Angeles Safer At Home Emergency Order and includes grocery stores and all businesses that sell food or water, pharmacies, hardware and building supply stores, all construction industry workers, janitorial businesses, private security personnel, laundromats and other laundry cleaning service providers, taxis, ride share services and hotels and motels, to name just a few. The full list of businesses affected can be found at: https://www.lamayor.org/sites/g/files/wph446/f/page/file/WorkerProtection.pdf
Employer Takeaway: If you operate an essential business as defined under the Los Angeles Mayor’s Safer At Home Emergency Order, you must provide (1) face protection to workers, (2) hand cleansing and/or hand sanitizing amenities as described above, and (3) proper social distancing protocols. Further, you can refuse to provide services to any customers or clients who enter your premises without a face covering.
City of Los Angeles Supplemental Paid Sick Leave Due to COVID-19
Effective April 10, 2020, the City of Los Angeles has expanded COVID-19-related paid sick leave requirements for certain employers. The Supplemental Paid Sick Leave Public Order (Public Order) applies to employers that have either: (1) 500 or more employees within the City of Los Angeles, or (2) 2,000 or more employees within the United States.
An employee must have worked for a covered employer from February 3, 2020, through March 4, 2020, and can take the supplemental paid leave for the following reasons:
- Time off because a public health official or health provider requires or recommends the employee isolate or self-quarantine to prevent the spread of COVID-19;
- The employee takes time off because they are at least 65 years old or has a health condition that puts them at risk;
- The employee needs to care for a family member who is not sick, but who public health officials or healthcare providers have required or recommended self-quarantine; or
- The employee needs to provide care to a family member whose senior care provider, school, or childcare provider is closed.
Full-time eligible employees are entitled to 80 hours of supplemental paid sick leave. An employee who works less than 40 hours shall receive supplemental paid sick leave in an amount no greater than the employee’s average two week pay over the period of February 3, 2020 through March 4, 2020.
Employers are prohibited from requiring a doctor’s note or other documentation to use the Supplemental Paid Sick Leave. In no event shall the supplemental paid sick leave exceed $511 per day and $5,110 in the aggregate.
An employer’s obligation to provide the 80 hours of Supplemental Paid Sick Leave under the Public Order is reduced for every hour an employer allowed an employee to take paid leave in an amount equal or greater than the requirements outlined in the Public Order, not including previously accrued hours.
The City of Los Angeles Public Order provides exemptions for emergency and health services personnel, critical parcel delivery services, employers providing more generous leave, new businesses, government agencies and collective bargaining agreements.
The complete text may be viewed at https://www.lamayor.org/sites/g/files/wph446/f/page/file/SUPPLEMENTALPAIDSICKLEAVE.pdf
Employer Takeaway: Los Angeles employers with more than 500 employees in the City of Los Angeles or 2,000 employees nationwide with employees working in the City of Los Angeles for a designated 30-day period now have additional sick leave obligations.
County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health Revised Safer At Home Order
Los Angeles County’s Safer At Home Order has been extended to May 15, 2020. It applies to all unincorporated areas and cities within the County of Los Angeles except Long Beach and Pasadena. The Order requires all non-essential businesses to cease in-person operations and remain closed to the public with the exception of minimum basic operations. Those are defined as those activities necessary to maintain and protect the value of the business’ inventory, safety and security of the facilities, process payroll and employee benefits, and other activities to maintain the ability of the employees to work remotely and deliver services remotely.
The LA County Order also requires that all essential businesses provide employees whose duties require contact with other employees or the public, with a cloth face covering to wear while the employee performs duties that involve contact with others no later than 11:59 p.m. on April 15, 2020. Essential businesses must also complete and post a Social Distancing Protocol at or near the entrance to the facility.
The Social Distancing Protocol requires essential businesses to describe how they are achieving items such as limiting the number of people into the facility at one time, maintaining physical distance from others, maintaining physical distance in lines that form, providing proper hand cleansing services and sanitizing, posting a notice to the public that those who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 are not to enter the premises, ensuring that those that do enter are wearing a face covering. Essential businesses must also show that they are adhering to proper disinfection procedures within the facility. A copy must also be provided to each employee performing work at the facility and it must be provided to any authority enforcing the Order upon demand.
The Order also requires all residents of the County to wear a face covering and practice social distancing when visiting any essential business.
The full text of the Order and a sample Social Distancing Protocol can be found at: https://covid19.lacounty.gov/wp-content/uploads/HOO_Safer-at-Home-Order-for-Control-of-COVID_04102020.pdf
Employer Takeaway: Essential businesses should immediately provide face coverings for employees, and prepare, implement and post compliant Social Distancing Protocol.
Have more specific questions about how to maneuver the evolving COVID-19 landscape? Contact your attorneys at Bradley, Gmelich & Wellerstein LLP. We are here to help.
Jaimee K. Wellerstein, Esq. is a Partner and the firm’s Employment Team Head. Representing employers in all aspects of employment law, Ms. Wellerstein collaborates with her clients to develop proactive business and legal strategies to try to avoid workplace conflict and employment disputes. She provides legal advice and counsel to numerous businesses, including conducting individualized training programs for both management and employees. Ms. Wellerstein performs internal audits of her clients’ employment practices to ensure compliance with the rapidly-changing world of employment laws, and guides investigations of employee allegations regarding harassment, discrimination, and employee misconduct.
When litigation cannot be avoided, Ms. Wellerstein aggressively defends her clients against employment law claims in the state and federal courts, as well as at administrative hearings, arbitrations, and mediations. Having defended numerous representative and individual lawsuits on behalf of her clients, Ms. Wellerstein is a skilled litigator and negotiator with a broad spectrum of experience upon which to draw.
A frequent speaker on numerous topics, including employment law and contract law, Ms. Wellerstein regularly conducts training seminars and programs for managers and employees in all areas of employment practices and policies.