California Unemployment Benefits

Depending on the exact circumstances, your employees may be eligible for State Disability Benefits (if they have the supporting medical documentation), Paid Family Leave (if they are caring for a family member), or Unemployment Insurance Benefits (if their job is shut down or they are subject to quarantine). The Employment Development Department has created a helpful overview and  FAQ to provide many answers to employee and employer questions. Further, employees can apply for Unemployment Insurance Benefits if their hours are reduced.

  • Chapter Note: Employers do not need to lay your employees off in order to them to apply for unemployment insurance benefits.  They can simply place employees on temporary furlough.

Governor Newsom issued an executive order (N 25-20) in response to the spread of COVID-19. The order gives discretion to the Employment Development Department to waive the one-week waiting period for disability insurance applicants who are unemployed and disabled as a result of the virus. The order also delays the deadline for state tax filing by 60-days for individuals and businesses unable to file on time based on compliance with public health requirements related to COVID-19 filings.

California COVID-19 Laws

  • SB 1159 – Workers’ Compensation: COVID-19
    • For employers with more than five (5) employees, establishes a workable presumption of compensability for employees who contract COVID-19 from any worksite that experiences an “outbreak” of COVID-19 cases. Provides for an evidentiary standard for employers to controvert a claim, sets an “outbreak” threshold trigger and contains reasonable claim rejection timeline. “Outbreak” is defined if within a 14-calendar day period, one of the following occurs: 1) an employer has 100 or fewer employees at a worksite and at least four (4) employees who reported to the site test positive for COVID-19; 2) an employer has more than 100 employees at a worksite and at least 4% of the number of employees who reported to the site test positive for COVID-19. The measure sunsets after 2 years.
  • AB 685 – COVID-19 Imminent Hazard to Employees
    • AB-685 created COVID-19 notice and reporting obligations for all California employers. The new law will require contractors, within one business day, to provide written notice of potential COVID-19 workplace exposure to all employees, employees’ exclusivities representative (the union), and any subcontractors who were at the same worksite as a “qualifying individual” within the “infectious period.” A “qualifying individual” is defined as any individual who (1) has a positive viral test for COVID-19, (2) is diagnosed by a licensed health care provider, (3) is ordered to isolate for COVID-19 by a public health official, or (4) has died due to COVID-19. “infectious period” means the time a COVID-19-positive individual is infectious, as defined by the State Department of Public Health which is currently 10-days. If a qualifying individual has been at the employer’s worksite during the infectious period, the employer must provide the potential COVID-19 workplace exposure notice. Contractors may communicate this written notice by e-mail, text message, or memorandum. The notice must include information regarding COVID-19 benefits under federal, state or local laws that are available to employees as well as information regarding the employer’s disinfection and safety plan that it plans to implement and complete per the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Employers are required to maintain records of notifications for at least three years.The law further imposes the obligation for employers to report when there has been an “outbreak” in their workforce. Specifically, if an employer is notified that there have been three or more laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19 among workers who live in different households within a two-week period, the employer must, within 48-hours, notify the local public health agency of the names, number, occupation and worksite of employees who meet the definition of a “qualifying individual.”

      These COVID-19 specific changes to the Labor Code will remain in effect until January 1, 2023. In preparation to meet these new requirements, contractors should prepare a template COVID-19 notice that is ready to distribute, make a list of all employees, unions, or subcontractors that may need to be notified, prepare a disinfection or safety plan, and create training and checklists for supervisors and managers covering the new requirements. It is essential for contractor to prepare in advance so that they can meet the 24-hour notice requirement in the event there is an exposure event. In an effort to assist with this, the Politico Group has created the following draft notice for your use.

  • AB 1867 – Large Employer Supplemental Paid Sick Leave
    • Establishes the California COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave (SPSL) program. Effective on September 18, 2020, the new law requires employers that employ 500 or more employees in the United States to provide 80 hours of paid leave to workers that are unable to work because they are subject to one of the following; 1) a federal, state or local shelter in place order related to COVID-19; 2) have been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine or self-isolate due to exposure to COVID-19 or; 3) have been prohibited from working by their employer due to health concerns related to the potential transmission of COVID-19. The measure is similar to ordinances passed in some of California’s largest cities and mirrors the federal requirements under the FFCRA which applies to employers that employ 500 or less employees.