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Operating Your Business in San Francisco During the Coronavirus Pandemic

While many counties around California moved into accelerated reopening, San Francisco County set its own pace. Though San Francisco has paused some reopening for now, as COVID-19 infection rates change, additional businesses will eventually be permitted to reopen.

San Francisco created detailed requirements for businesses, whether essential or otherwise, to follow during the pandemic. All businesses that are operating must have workers, including volunteers and contractors, self-evaluate their health on a daily basis before each shift. Some businesses are also required to ask COVID-19 screening questions of employees, contractors, and volunteers before starting work. The San Francisco Department of Public Health further encourages businesses and organizations to conduct health screening, even if not required to do so. Employers may use a variety of methods to conduct screening including the use of a physical handout, an automated phone call, or an online survey, but should ensure screening includes the Department’s required screening questions. Employers should also establish clear procedures for health screening activities, which identify who will conduct the screening, safety measures used during screening activities, methods for documenting health screening, and procedures the employer will follow if screening identifies an individual with COVID-19 symptoms or exposure. If documenting health screening activities, employers should be aware that the records could fall into the definition of an employee exposure record or medical record and be subject to thirty-year retention requirements in California Code of Regulations Title 8, Section 3204. The handout created by the city provides a list of questions for an employee to answer every day that they report to a worksite, and includes questions like, “Within the last 10 days have you been diagnosed with COVID-19 or had a test confirming you have the virus.” The same questions are also available on a website that employers may direct employees to. Notably, the San Francisco Department of Public Health is discouraging the use of temperature checks as part of an employer’s health screening procedures and indicates that measuring temperatures should only be used in “special circumstances in very specific settings where measuring temperatures is required.”

As asking employees about their symptoms and exposure to COVID-19 does not replace other safety measures,  in addition to these health checks, San Francisco employers must also prepare a social distancing protocol. The employer’s social distancing protocol should clarify how employees may maintain a physical distance of 6 feet or more throughout the day, alternative safety measures if social distancing is not feasible, and protective measures to prevent unnecessary contact. All employees should be trained on the protocol and a copy of the protocol should be posted on-site someplace that employees will see it.

Similar to the general State requirements for businesses that are operating, San Francisco businesses must take precautions to protect employee health including:

  • Making sure that employees do not come to work sick.
  • Ensure desks and work areas are at least 6 feet apart.
  • Clean break rooms, bathrooms, and other common areas frequently.
  • Do not let employees use shared equipment like microwaves, water coolers, or drinking fountains.
  • Make cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, tissues, and soap and water easily available.

As is now mandated across the state, San Francisco employers must require everyone to wear a face covering and encourage good hygiene practices.

Jackson Lewis P.C. © 2023National Law Review, Volume X, Number 195

About this Author

Lisa Barnett Sween, Labor, Litigation, harassment, discrimination, Jackson Lewis Law Firm
Principal and Office Litigation Manager San Francisco

Lisa Barnett Sween is a Principal and Litigation Manager of the San Francisco, California, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. She represents employers in all aspects of employment law and litigation, including state and federal employment harassment and discrimination litigation, wrongful discharge litigation, FMLA, CFRA, ADA, and wage and hour litigation.

In addition to her litigation expertise, Ms. Sween regularly counsels employers on preventative employment policies and practices involving all areas of federal, state and local employment law, including recruiting...

Hardev S. Chhokar Employment Attorney Jackson Lewis

Hardev S. Chhokar is an Associate in the San Francisco, California, office of Jackson Lewis P.C.  He represents clients in all areas of employment law litigation. 

Mr. Chhokar defends employers in state and federal court and has experience in class action and single plaintiff matters involving claims for wage and hour violations, breach of contract, discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination, and unfair competition.

Prior to joining Jackson Lewis, Mr. Chhokar developed...

Cressinda Schlag Environmental Health Lawyer Jackson Lewis Austin

Cressinda (“Chris”) D. Schlag is an associate in the Austin, Texas, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. Her practice focuses on environmental health and safety matters involving legal and regulatory compliance as well as federal and state government enforcement actions.

Before becoming an attorney, Ms. Schlag obtained a graduate degree in occupational health and safety and environmental management and worked as an environmental health and safety engineer and consultant with a variety of industries, including, for example, oil and gas, chemicals manufacturing and...