Please note: The information below is based on what we know today, and that rules and regulations are literally changing daily. Employers need to be nimble and flexible – check your local rules on a daily basis.
As more and more people receive the COVID-19 vaccine, employees are starting to ask questions about mask requirements. Mask requirements currently vary widely (and are changing frequently) depending on the state in which the employee works:
All Californians are still required to wear masks whenever they are in public except when they are:
- alone in their car or only with those within their households;
- working alone in a private office or room;
- outdoors and staying six feet away from others not in their households;
- eating or drinking, as long as they are distanced from others;
- undergoing a service that involves nose or face, such as a dental procedure;
- working and are required to wear respiratory protection; or
- specifically exempted from wearing face coverings by other guidance.
Children younger than two years old are exempt, along with people with a disability, medical condition or mental health condition that prevents them from wearing a face covering, people who are hearing impaired or are communicating with someone who is hearing impaired, and people for whom wearing a face covering would create a risk related to their work, as determined by local, state, or federal regulators or workplace safety guidelines. There are currently no exemptions for individuals who are fully vaccinated.
California’s current guidelines regarding masks and face coverings are available here: https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/COVID-19/guidance-for-face-coverings.aspx.
Idaho never had a statewide mask mandate. Rather, mask requirements were defined by local health districts and municipalities. Boise currently still requires mask usage in “public places,” which means any place open to all members of the public without specific invitation, including retail businesses; government offices; medical, educational, arts, and recreational institutions; public transportation, including ridesharing vehicles; and outdoor public areas. Several other Idaho cities have similar requirements.
The Idaho legislature has made several efforts to initiate legislation banning mask mandates. None have yet become law although that remains a possibility in the remaining days of this year’s session as there have been efforts on several fronts to place restrictions on the pandemic response. Nothing in the proposed legislation would specifically bar an employer from requiring employees to wear a mask.
Oregon recently amended its mask requirements to provide that masks are not required in private indoor or outdoor settings (which, presumably, could include a private workplace), if (and only if) an individual is fully vaccinated, or at low risk for severe COVID-19 disease and is with others who are all fully vaccinated. Otherwise, masks still are required in both public and private workplaces unless the employee is eating or drinking, or is in a private, individual workplace. Private, individual workplace means an indoor space used by one individual at a time that has floor to ceiling walls and a closed door. Employers must provide masks for employees, post clear signs about mask requirements, and provide accommodations for employees with medical conditions who are unable to wear a mask.
Oregon’s most recent guidance regarding masks and face coverings is available here: https://sharedsystems.dhsoha.state.or.us/DHSForms/Served/le2288K.pdf.
In its recent legislative session, the Utah legislature ended the statewide mask mandate on April 10, 2021. The law allows county health departments to continue mask mandates only with local legislative approval, effectively prohibiting mayors or county executives from unilaterally continuing their mandates. After some public disagreement, the Salt Lake County Council decided this week not to continue the mandate, except in specific county facilities. Only one county in Utah (so far) has said it will continue the mandate – Grand County, with popular tourist destinations like Arches and Canyonlands National Parks and Moab.
Perceiving an opening in the statute, Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall has issued a mask mandate for indoor and some outdoor settings in Salt Lake City. Mayor Mendenhall stated that her mayoral emergency powers allow her to do this and the recent statute passed by the state legislature does not specifically prohibit her doing so. The statute is actually silent on actions by cities, presumably because the state legislature thought its statutory limitations on county actions also limited cities by implication. Salt Lake City’s action is in a bit of a gray area, but it remains to be seen whether it will be challenged.
Private businesses and property owners in Utah can continue requiring masks on their premises and in workplaces.
Washington’s statewide mask mandate remains in place. Under the mandate, anyone in a public space must wear face coverings. Public space includes indoor public space and outdoor public areas when a physical distance of at least six feet cannot be maintained from non-household members. If physical distancing is maintained, individuals may remove face coverings while eating or drinking at a restaurant or exercising outdoors. People may also remove face coverings when essential for communication with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing, when necessary to obtain a service, to confirm identity, to sleep, and when other law prohibits a face covering.
Individuals with certain medical conditions and children under the age of two are exempt from wearing facial coverings in public. Children between the ages of two and four are encouraged but not required to wear a face covering in public. Fully vaccinated people are still required to comply with the Washington mask mandate in public; however, fully vaccinated people can (1) gather indoors with other fully vaccinated people in private residences without masks; and (2) gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household in private residences without masks, unless any of those people has an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
Employers are required to ensure that almost all employees wear face coverings at work. The only exceptions are employees who are working alone in an office, in a vehicle, or at a job site, or when the job has no in-person interaction, and employees who have a medical condition or disability that makes wearing a facial covering inappropriate, or who are hearing impaired and reliant on facial expressions for communication. Employers must provide face coverings, though employees may choose to use their own. Employers are subject to other safety requirements described in our prior post. Failure to comply with these requirements may constitute a safety violation under L&I regulations. Businesses must also require customers to wear face coverings.
Washington’s current guidance regarding face coverings is available here: https://coronavirus.wa.gov/information-for/you-and-your-family/face-masks-or-cloth-face-covering.