REAL ESTATE | San Francisco Passes “Healthy Buildings Ordinance”
- Full-time and part-time employees
- Casual or on-call employees and
- Independent contractors and their employees who perform work at a covered building, whether employed or hired directly by the operator or by another entity
Summary of the Training and Cleaning Requirements: Among other things, the Ordinance will impose the following requirements:
- The employees must be provided with “comprehensive and ongoing training” as to the new standards and equipment, including proper use of cleaning and disinfectant products. Trainings must also cover how the virus is spread and prevented and its symptoms. All employee training must be conducted during paid time.
- Employers must provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at no cost to employees.
- Operators must also provide testing for COVID-19, free of charge, to an employee if the Department of Public Health recommends it. This testing is considered paid time off.
- The Ordinance also includes protocol in the event there is reason to believe that a guest room was occupied by someone infected with COVID-19.
- Operators must identify “high-contact areas,” which include items and fixtures with which employees or guests are expected to have regular physical contact—at a minimum, the high-contact areas listed in the Ordinance. Operators must mandate multiple daily cleanings of these areas or any open space accessible to the public.
Prohibition Against Retaliation: The Ordinance prohibits any type of retaliation against an employee (including failure to promote, reduction of compensation or wrongful discharge) for either reporting/disclosing conditions, or refusing to perform work, that “the employee believes poses a personal health risk or a health risk to others because of a failure to adhere to the requirements of” the Ordinance. The Ordinance does not provide any objective factors for considering what constitutes a health risk nor does it state if the belief must be reasonable.
Violations of any of the measures set out in the Ordinance will be considered a nuisance under the San Francisco Health Code. The San Francisco Department of Public Health has the authority to enforce the new standards, including the authority to shut down an operation that violates the Ordinance.
An employee may bring a civil action against the employer. Potential remedies include actual damages (including lost pay and benefits) or, if greater, total statutory damages, at $1,000 per violation; exemplary damages; and attorney’s fees and costs.
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And for any legal questions related to this pandemic, please contact the authors of this Legal Update or Mayer Brown’s COVID-19 Core Response Team at FW-SIG-COVID-19-Core-Response-Team@mayerbrown.com