Cal/OSHA Approves New Mask Mandates To Take Immediate Effect

Authors: Employment Law Team

In a highly anticipated move for California employers, on June 17, 2021, Cal/OSHA approved revisions to its COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), scaling back face covering requirements for vaccinated employees and bringing  the standards more closely in line with the CDC and the California Department of Public Health guidelines.

The revised standards, which can be found here, include:

  • Face Coverings for Vaccinated/Unvaccinated Workers: Fully vaccinated workers are generally not required to wear face coverings except for the places where California still requires masks to be worn by all people. Unvaccinated workers will still be required to wear face coverings indoors or in a vehicle, with limited exceptions such as when the employee is alone in a room or vehicle, is eating and drinking at the workplace while social distancing, or when otherwise required by other regulations. Under the standards, scarfs, ski masks, balaclavas, bandanas, turtleneck collars, and single layers of fabrics are not good enough, and do not count as face coverings.
  • Elimination of Mandatory Physical Distancing Requirements: The new standards eliminate physical distancing protocols outside of a few limited situations following potential exposure to COVID-19.
  • Elimination of Daily Disinfecting: Although employers will still be required to ensure that kitchens, bathrooms, and common areas are effectively cleaned, the new standards no longer require that they be disinfected daily.
  • Documentation of Vaccination: The new standards require employers to document who is vaccinated, but do not require retention of vaccination cards and allow employees to self-attest to full inoculation. 
  • New Training Requirements: Under the new standards, employers must continue to provide COVID-19 training, including new training subjects such as COVD-19 vaccination and testing access and policies, leave policies, and the employer’s respirator policies.
  • N95 Respirators for Unvaccinated Employees: The new standards require employers to provide N95 respirators to unvaccinated employees “upon request.” Employers are still required to provide face coverings for all employees who are not fully vaccinated, and ensure that they are worn properly. 
  • Narrowed Testing for Outbreaks: The revised standards narrow an employer’s COVID-19 testing obligations to those employees within the “Exposed Group” as opposed to the “Exposed Workplace.” For outbreaks (3 or more cases in an exposed group), the revised standards now explicitly exempt from the testing group: (1) “[e]mployees who were fully vaccinated before [the new standards] became applicable to the workplace and who do not have COVID-19 symptoms”; (2) “COVID-19 cases who did not develop COVID-19 symptoms after returning to work . . . for 90 days after the initial onset of COVID-19 symptoms” and (3) “COVID-19 cases who never developed symptoms, [for] 90 days after the first positive test.”  For major outbreaks (20 or more cases in an exposed group), employers still need to test “all employees in the exposed group, regardless of vaccinated status

Following the adoption of the new standards, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order for the regulations to take immediate effect, shortcutting the normal 10-day administrative law review process. The new standards will remain in place through January 13, 2022, unless otherwise amended or rescinded.

***The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and not to provide legal advice. Contact your attorney to obtain advice regarding any particular issue or problem. ***