(TNS) — A California bill supported by labor unions and opposed by business groups would force employers to quickly notify employees and health officials if a worker is exposed to coronavirus.

Under Assembly Bill 685, sponsored by The California Labor Federation and United Food and Commercial Workers, public or private employers would face fines up to $10,000 for failing to provide notifications of exposure within 24 hours. Failure to provide any of the notifications would be a misdemeanor, under the bill authored by Eloise Gómez Reyes (D-San Bernardino) and promoted by Robert Rivas (D-Hollister) and Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego).

“As the average age of those falling ill from COVID-19 has become younger, it is critical to track workplace exposure and to use that data to find ways to keep workers safe on the job,” the bill says. “With infections and deaths disproportionately high in the Latino, Black, and Asian-Pacific Islander communities, more information about workplace illness and industry clusters can inform policy makers in addressing healthcare disparities and protecting vulnerable workers.”

Existing law fails to make employers’ reporting requirements clear, the bill says. “This deficiency has led to workers and members of the public living in fear for their own safety, unaware of where outbreaks may already be occurring,” according to the bill. “It is imperative that positive COVID-19 tests or diagnoses be reported immediately in the occupational setting, to members of the public, and to relevant state agencies.”

If the bill passes, when a worker is exposed to coronavirus — through contact with someone who has tested positive, been diagnosed with the virus, quarantined under a COVID-19 order, or died because of confirmed or possible coronavirus infection — the employer must take a series of steps. All employees at the worksite must be notified in writing, in English and the dominant language of the workplace, and the employer must “make every reasonable effort necessary to notify workers verbally,” the bill says.

Worker representatives would have to be notified, and along with workers, be told of any existing options for exposed employees to take leave, as well as disinfecting plans the employer intends to follow before reopening.

The employer would also have to tell state health and safety authorities how many workers, and in which jobs, have tested or been diagnosed positive, ordered to quarantine or died from possible coronavirus infection.

California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health and the State Department of Public Health would have to put reported information on its websites “in a manner that allows the public to track outbreaks, the number of COVID-19 cases reported by any workplace, and the occupation of employees involved.”

Business groups, including the California Chamber of Commerce are fighting the bill. “Its definition of ‘exposure’ is broad and vague, resulting in triggering ‘exposures’ in non-sensical scenarios,” a statement of opposition filed in the legislature says. “If an infected employee (or customer) briefly visits a workplace, wearing a mask, drops off an item, speaks briefly to a clerk who is 10 feet away behind a desk, then leaves is that an ‘exposure?'”

Although the groups said they agree that a positive COVID-19 test or diagnosis are appropriate grounds for a person to be considered potentially infectious, the threshold for worker exposure should not be met merely because a worker had contact with someone under a quarantine order or whose death “could have been” caused by the virus, the groups said.

“Employers should not face potential criminal penalties for failing to provide notice in ambiguous scenarios, particularly with a disease that we do not yet understand well and can be asymptomatic,” the groups said.

There is already coronavirus case recording done through California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health and through testing labs’ mandatory disclosures, the groups argued.

“AB 685 also includes a ‘name and shame’ provision by requiring state agencies to post on their websites company-specific coronavirus exposure information, the groups asserted. “In addition, publication poses potential privacy concerns, as reporting an individual’s ‘occupation’ and worksite may render the person identifiable. For example, a location may have only one or two managers or technicians.”

©2020 the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.