Guidelines to Governor Newsom’s COVID-19 Employer Playbook

As you may be aware, Governor Newsom released a 32-page COVID-19 Employer Playbook (the “Playbook”) providing additional guidance for California employers related to COVID-19 and safe re-opening. Here is what you need to know:

Worksite-Specific COVID-19 Prevention Plan

All California employers must create (and implement as necessary) a COVID-19 prevention plan that:

  • Is specific to your workplace;
  • Identifies all areas and job tasks with potential exposures to COVID-19;
  • Includes control measures to eliminate or reduce such exposures, such as symptom screening protocol;
  • Maintains healthy business operations, including providing clear direction on, among other things, how to report and communicate with managers, workers, and local health officials when there is a COVID-19 case or outbreak);
  • Maintains healthy work environment (including cleaning and disinfecting, social distancing protocols, and universal face-covering requirements);
  • Provides effective training for workers, including an outline of policies and procedures for workers and customers to follow; and
  • Encourages workers to give input into creating a safe workplace plan.

Remember to look at federal, state, and local guidance when creating a worksite-specific plan, as many local jurisdictions (e.g., cities and counties) have additional industry-specific guidance and requirements.

California Employer Guidance for COVID-19 Case(s) in the Workplace

The Playbook provides guidance to California employers on what to do when there is a COVID-19 case in the workplace or an outbreak. The topics discussed are as follows:

  • Outbreak Identification Preparedness Actions;
  • Considerations for California Employers to Communicate Identified Cases of COVID-19 to the Local Health Department;
  • Considerations for California Employers to Communicate Identified Cases of COVID-19 to Workers;
  • Actions for Preventing Further Spread in the Workplace;
  • Criteria for Returning to Work After Isolation; and
  • Cleaning Guide for California Employers.

The Playbook provides checklists under each topic above. But note, what is required of California employers versus what is recommended is less clear.

Regulations and Guidance for Reporting COVID-19 Cases

The Playbook includes a section reminding California employers that a work-related COVID-19 fatality or illness must be recorded like any other recordable occupational fatality, injury, or illness. In addition to this, there is guidance on when a California employer must report a COVID-19 case to Cal/OSHA (i.e., any serious illness, serious injury or death of a worker that occurred at work or in connection with work within eight hours of when they knew or should have known of the illness).

Paid Sick Leave

When a worker needs time off for a COVID-19-relatd reason, there are various potential benefits and protections California employers should keep in mind. The Playbook discusses the following benefits:

  • California Family Rights Act (if COVID-19 qualifies as a serious health condition);
  • Paid Sick Leave (federal, state and local paid sick leave entitlements);
  • State Disability Insurance and Paid Family Leave;
  • Regular and Pandemic Unemployment Benefits; and
  • Workers’ Compensation

California employers should also keep in mind how many of these entitlements and protections intersect and additional obligations they have under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act.

Enforcement and Compliance

The California Governor’s Office for Emergency Services has established the COVID-19 Enforcement Task Force (“Task Force”) to monitor and enforce violations of state statutes and orders. The State agencies included in the Task Force are the Department of Alcoholic and Beverage Control, Department of Consumer Affairs, Department of Industrial Relations, and others. California employers are encouraged to reach out to the offices listed in Appendix B of the Playbook to seek assistance or answers to questions pertaining to the COVID-19 statutes and orders.

Worker Education

The Playbook emphasizes the importance of training and educating workers on COVID-19 and the steps they can take to protect themselves and others both at work and outside of work.

Guidance for California Employers and Workers in Enforcing Mask Requirements

The Playbook provides the following tips when dealing with individuals who are not wearing face coverings:

  • Workers should avoid approaching coworkers or members of the public who are not wearing a face covering, maintain at least a 6-foot distance from others and raise any concerns to their supervisor, and report such incidences to their supervisor.
  • Supervisors should discuss any concerns with their Human Resources Department for guidance on handling these situations.
  • California Employers should train their workers on what to do in such situations, including how to minimize risk of workplace violence and what to do to get support when de-escalation efforts are unsuccessful in these situations.


Be sure to stay up to date on evolving federal, state, and local guidance. If you have any questions or would like additional information on the issues discussed above, please do not hesitate to contact us. We will continue to monitor this development and provide updates as quickly as possible.