Important Mask Requirements Updated by Cal/OSHA

06.23.21Baylee Olsen

Important Mask Requirements Updated by Cal/OSHA

Effective June 17, 2021, an Executive Order was signed allowing California employees in the workplace to remove their masks while indoors provided they are fully vaccinated while all employees, whether vaccinated or not, can remove their masks when outdoors. These changes are significant and may even be a relief for many businesses and their employees, but with these drastic changes, comes additional guidance and continued requirements. Keep in mind that although revisions were made to the Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS), many of the originally adopted mandates are still in place, such as the implementation of a COVID Prevention Plan and continued quarantine of employees where applicable.

What does this mean for you as an employer and what do the revised ETS changes entail?
  • Fully vaccinated employees do not need to be offered testing or excluded from work after close contact unless they have COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Fully vaccinated employees do not need to wear face coverings except for certain situations during outbreaks and in settings where CDPH requires all persons to wear them. 
  • Employers must document the vaccination status of fully vaccinated employees if they do not wear face coverings indoors. (Employers may still continue to mandate face coverings at the workplace for all employees should they choose to do so).
  • Employees who are not fully vaccinated must continue to wear a face-covering with few exceptions: when the employee is alone in a room or vehicle, when eating or drinking, when a medical accommodation is required, or when the job duties make a face-covering infeasible or hazardous.
  • Employers should be aware that the definition of a sufficient face-covering includes only a medical, surgical, or two-fabric layer mask, or respirator. (Employees who are not fully vaccinated may request respirators, such as N95 masks, from their employers, which shall be provided at no cost, when working indoors or in vehicles with more than one person. Employers are not required to mandate their usage).
  • Employees are not required to wear face coverings when outdoors regardless of vaccination status except for certain employees during outbreaks.
  • Employees are explicitly allowed to wear a face-covering without fear of retaliation from employers.
  • Physical distancing requirements have been eliminated except where an employer determines there is a hazard and for certain employees during major outbreaks.
  • Employees who are not fully vaccinated may request respirators for voluntary use from their employers at no cost and without fear of retaliation from their employers.
  • Employees who are not fully vaccinated and exhibit COVID-19 symptoms must be offered testing by their employer.
  • Employers must review the Interim guidance for Ventilation, Filtration, and Air Quality in Indoor Environments.
  • Employers must evaluate ventilation systems to maximize outdoor air and increase filtration efficiency, and evaluate the use of additional air cleaning systems.
How does an employer confirm vaccination status and what does that look like?

Vaccination status must be documented.

  • The revised ETS does not specify a particular method. 
  • 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 to confirm vaccination include:

  • Employees provide proof of vaccination (vaccine card, image of vaccine card or health care document showing vaccination status) and the employer maintains a copy.
  • 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 the employer maintains a record of who self-attests.

Under the ETS, an employer is not obligated to require employees to submit proof of being fully vaccinated.

  • An employee has the right to decline to state if they are vaccinated or not. 
  • In that case, the employer must treat the employee as unvaccinated and must not take disciplinary or discriminatory action against the employee.

The ETS applies to all employers, employees, and to all places of employment with three exceptions:

  • Workplaces where there is only one employee who does not have contact with other people.
  • Employees who are working from home or teleworking from a location of the employee’s choice that is not under the control of the employer.
  • Employees who are covered by the Aerosol Transmissible Diseases regulation.

For additional information, please refer to the revised ETS Fact Sheet and FAQs

At SDHRC, we continue our commitment to being a reliable resource for our clients and provide the most current COVID 19 updates as they arise. We understand these significant changes can be overwhelming and difficult to roll out at your workplace since, for many, the idea of removing our masks can be a little scary and a sensitive topic for your employees. Let us help guide you through these very significant changes and ensure the transition allows your employees to feel safe, while also reducing any potential risks.


About the Author

Marsi Harris, “Madre of HR”

Marsi is an HR Consultant who has been with SDHRC for over 2 years but has over 17 years of experience in talent management, organizational development, compensation analysis, and HR compliance. In the free time that Marsi does have, she enjoys traveling and enjoying time with her family.