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Cal/OSHA Votes to Loosen Mask Rules for Vaccinated California Workers

Fri Jun. 18th, 2021 PTWWW Legal Alert
On June 17, 2021, California regulators approved revised mask requirements for the workplace, meaning that vaccinated workers are no longer required to mask up in most cases. The revised regulations align with general state guidelines that took effect Tuesday by ending most mask rules for people who are vaccinated against COVID-19. The vote by board members with California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health, known as Cal/OSHA, passed 5-1.
Governor Newsom signed an executive order after the vote to speed up the guidance to make it effective immediately. That order sidesteps the usual legal review that would normally keep the rules from taking effect until June 28. 
Examples of the new rules are as follows:
  • Fully vaccinated employees do not need to wear a mask while indoors, except for a few situations, including (i) places where California still requires masks to be worn by all people; and (ii) if there’s an outbreak or at locations like mass transit.
  • Unvaccinated employees must still wear face masks in indoor settings.
  • Face masks are not required for vaccinated and unvaccinated workers while outdoors.
  • Employers are required to verify that employees are fully vaccinated if workers don’t wear a mask. Employers will need to document who is vaccinated in their workplaces, but they are not required to retain copies of vaccination cards. Instead, they can allow employees to self-attest to full inoculation. Workers can decline to state if they are vaccinated or not. However, they will be treated as if they are unvaccinated. The employer must record the vaccination status for any employee not wearing a face covering indoors and this record must be kept confidential. Acceptable options include:
    • Employees provide proof of vaccination (vaccine card, image of vaccine card or health care document showing vaccination status) and employer maintains a copy. The records must be kept confidential and are not to be included in the employee’s personnel file.
    • Employees provide proof of vaccination. The employer maintains a record of the employees who presented proof, but not the vaccine record itself.
    • Employees self-attest to vaccination status and employer maintains a record of who self-attests.
  • Physical distancing requirements will be lifted, except if a work facility has a coronavirus outbreak. The guidelines say that all employees, regardless of vaccination status, will need to wear face masks if their workplaces see a surge in COVID cases.
  • Vaccinated employees will no longer be required to miss work to quarantine if they come into contact with someone who contracted COVID-19.
  • The guidelines also lift prohibitions on sharing personal items or work equipment. Instead, regulators say employers should implement more cleaning protocols and evaluate their ventilation systems.
  • Employers will need to make COVID-19 testing available to unvaccinated employees when they have symptoms.
  • Workplaces still would be required to provide masks to workers who are not fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and make sure they wear them while indoors or in shared workplace vehicles or employer-provided transportation. Employers also would have to provide respirators — such as N95 masks — should an employee who is not yet fully vaccinated request one.
  • Employees cannot face retaliation for wearing a mask, even if they are not required to do so.
More information on the revised COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards can be found in Cal/OSHA’s Frequently Asked Questions.
Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.