California Falls Into Line On Workplace COVID-19 Restrictions

Smith, Gambrell & Russell, LLP

On June 17, 2021, Cal OSHA’s board voted to adopt revised COVID-19 workplace standards that more closely align with what is being done across the country. The Governor issued an executive order that allowed the revised standard to become effective immediately. Cal OSHA’s statement regarding the revised standards can be found here. FAQs regarding the revised standards can be found here. The new rules can be found here.

Most notably, the revised standards eliminate indoor mask requirements for all vaccinated employees and also eliminate social distancing requirements regardless of vaccination status. 

Unvaccinated employees still are required to wear masks while indoors, and employers are required to make appropriate respirators (e.g., N95 masks) available for voluntary use by unvaccinated employees who request them. Masks are still required for all employees working in public transit, K-12 educational facilities, health care, and long-term care settings, correctional and detention facilities, and shelters.

Employers are required to document employees’ vaccination status. This may be done in any of the following three ways: (1) employee provides proof of vaccination (vaccine card, image of vaccine card, or other healthcare document), and employer maintains a copy; (2) employee provides proof of vaccination, and employer maintains record that the proof was presented but does not keep a copy of the proof, or (3) employee self-attests, and employer maintains a record of who self-attests. An employee may decline to disclose vaccination status, in which case the employee must be treated as not vaccinated. Whatever record is provided/made as to vaccination status will have to be treated like any other employee medical record.

Despite the significant relaxation of the earlier standards, certain requirements remain in place, including an effective written COVID prevention program, notifying health officials of COVID outbreaks in the workplace (three or more cases within a 14-day period), and offering no-cost testing in certain circumstances.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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