My Employee Might Have COVID-19...What Should I Do?
Posted January 21, 2021

The incidence of COVID-19 remains high in California. Not only are employers faced with navigating various federal, state and local laws and recommendations, but those laws and recommendations are continually changing, and at times, do not align. The resources below will help you handle COVID-19 exposures and positive cases in the workplace.


Some of the most common questions we receive from employers is what they should do when an employee is exposed to COVID-19 inside or outside of the workplace, or an employee tests positive for COVID-19. To determine your next steps, remember your “ABCs”:

  • “A” = Action: I received information that one of my employees was exposed or tested positive for COVID-19. What action do I need to take with the exposed/positive employee and my other employees that might have been exposed?
  • “B” = Benefits: What benefits are available for my affected employee(s)?
  • “C” = Communication: Who do I need to notify? What type of notification is required? When must I make the notification?

We created the chart below to help employers quickly navigate their “ABCs” in four different common scenarios (this chart is based upon generally applicable guidance; the guidelines for certain industries, including healthcare, may differ): 


* The Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”) (click here) and State of California (click here and here) have lowered the post-exposure quarantine requirement from 14 to 10 days. The CDC still recommends 14 days because of the incubation period for COVID-19. Cal/OSHA also still recommends 14 days. You can find the updated Cal/OSHA ETS regulations here (see question 49).

** “Exposure” is defined as being within 6 feet of a COVID-19 case for a cumulative (not consecutive) total of 15 minutes in a 24-hour period.

*** State Disability Insurance (employers should provide employees with the Employment Development Department (“EDD”) packet that can be found here. Additional information can be found here.

Employers also should monitor local City and County ordinances for additional requirements that may apply to your business and location.


On January 6, 2021, the California Department of Public Health (“CDPH”) released a new Travel Advisory to all Californians. The State recommends that Californians avoid non-essential travel of more than 120 miles from a person’s place of residence, or to other states or countries. All persons arriving in or returning to California from other states or countries should self-quarantine for 10 days. The full Travel Advisory can be found here.

On January 12, 2021, the CDC issued an order requiring all air passengers traveling to the US from a foreign country to be tested no more than three days before their flight departs, and to provide proof of the negative result or documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 to the airline before boarding the flight. This CDC order is effective January 26, 2021. You can find additional information here.

For future information regarding COVID-19 exposure and positive cases in the workplace, or other employment law issues, contact the attorneys at LightGabler.

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