Counties Require Employers to Post and Distribute a "Social Distancing Protocol" Before April 3

Various California counties have revised their shelter-at-home orders, placing greater limitations on personal activities and the number of “essential” businesses and activities. These include (for now) San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Sonoma and soon Napa counties.


The limitations still allow a wide range of businesses activities. They also permit almost all businesses to continue “minimum” necessary activity such as securing inventory and property, and performing essential administrative functions such as running payroll and maintaining IT services.


Employers maintaining onsite functions as an “Essential Business” in the affected counties must pay attention to another important part of the revised orders. Before April 3, every Essential Business with activity at its worksite(s) – whether open to the public or not – must adopt and post a “Social Distancing Protocol” explaining steps taken by the business to ensure (when applicable):


  • Limiting the number of people who can enter into the facility at any one time to ensure that people in the facility can easily maintain a minimum six-foot distance from one another at all times, except as required to complete the Essential Business activity;


  • Designating where lines may form at a facility, marking six-foot increments at a minimum, establishing where individuals should stand to maintain adequate social distancing;


  • Providing hand sanitizer, soap and water, or effective disinfectant at or near the entrance of the facility and in other appropriate areas for use by the public and employees, and in locations where there is high-frequency employee interaction with members of the public (e.g. cashiers);


  • Providing for contactless payment systems or, if not feasible to do so, the providing for disinfecting all payment portals, pens, and styluses after each use;


  • Regularly disinfecting other high-touch surfaces; and


  • Posting a sign at the entrance of the facility informing all employees and customers that they should: avoid entering the facility if they have a cough or fever; maintain a minimum six-foot distance from one another; sneeze and cough into one’s elbow; not shake hands or engage in any unnecessary physical contact.

The protocol should also explain any additional social distancing measures implemented by the business, such as those suggested by CDC guidance here.

Copies of the protocol must be posted near entrances in an easily viewable location and a copy must be provided to each employee working at the facility.

Finally, the protocol must model a format provided as an appendix to the revised orders. See Sonoma County “Appendix A,” here. It must be in “substantially” this form, though employers may prepare their own similar format.

One thing is not yet clear: while “Essential Businesses” are required to post the protocol, the revised orders do not expressly apply the requirement to businesses performing only “minimum” necessary activities such as security and core administration. Even if the requirement does not apply, though, minimum activities must still follow “Social Distancing and Hygiene Requirements,” including:


  • Maintaining at least six-foot social distancing from individuals who are not part of the same household or living unit;


  • Frequently washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or using hand sanitizer that is recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as effective in combatting COVID-19;


  • Covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue or fabric or, if not possible, into the sleeve or elbow (but not into hands); and


  • Avoiding all social interaction outside the household when sick with a fever or cough.

Because these appear to be social rather than work-oriented, we recommend that employers performing minimum activities still adopt and post a Social Distancing Protocol applicable to employees.

The current requirements begin at 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, April 2, and may be enforced by local health or law enforcement personnel.

Copies of the new orders can be viewed at: San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Sonoma. A MS Word version of the model protocol is at Sonoma County’s site, here. A fillable .pdf is at San Mateo County’s site, here.

© 2020 Rybicki & Associates P.C.