As of June 15, 2021, California’s economy is now fully open. Vaccinated individuals may go unmasked in most settings with limited exclusions, per CDC/CA Department of Health guidelines. But in the workplace, employees must continue to follow more specific Cal/OSHA guidelines. That may change soon.

On June 17, 2021, Cal/OSHA plans to approve proposed changes to the emergency temporary standards (ETS) relating to workplace COVID-19 guidelines, likely creating substantial changes to what has been an ongoing challenge for California employers. The ETS in place now 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 work from home; and
  • employees who are covered by the Aerosol Transmissible Diseases regulation.

The new proposals to the ETS, if approved, are expected to go into effect on June 28, 2021. Until then, vaccinated and non-vaccinated employees remain required to socially distance and maintain face coverings in the workplace.



Below are a few expected changes that employers can anticipate coming with the anticipated ETS revisions:

  • Physical distancing requirements will likely be eliminated upon the effective date of the revised ETS.
  • Employees who are fully vaccinated will no longer need to wear face coverings in the workplace, but may choose to wear a mask without fear of retaliation from their employer. (An individual is considered fully vaccinated two weeks or more after their second dose of Pfizer/Moderna or two weeks after receiving the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.)
  • Employees who are not fully vaccinated need to be provided and wear face coverings when indoors and in vehicles during work.
  • Fully vaccinated employees without symptoms generally will no longer need to be excluded from the workplace after exposure to COVID-19.
  • At no cost, employers must make COVID-19 testing available, during paid time, to employees with COVID-19 symptoms who are not fully vaccinated. However, employers will be exempt from any obligation to make testing available to employees who are fully vaccinated and asymptomatic, or who have had COVID-19 in the last 90 days.
  • Employers will be required to provide written notice of a COVID-19 case in the workplace. After providing notice, employers will also be required to provide “verbal notice” if they reasonably know that an employee has not received the written notice or who have limited fluency in the language in which the written notice was provided.  (Best practice will be to provide written notice in all languages spoken by a company’s employees.)
  • Employees may bring a wage claim to recover unpaid “continued earnings” when excluded from the workplace in connection with COVID-19 exclusions. Employees must be paid their regular rate of pay by the next regular pay day.
  • Employers providing housing and transportation will have increased flexibility with respect to fully vaccinated employees.

More information on the emergency temporary standards and the upcoming revisions can be found here.

For guidance on the California Department of Public Health standards in public settings, click here.

Employers should bring questions about ETS compliance to legal counsel.  Please do not hesitate to contact us for assistance.

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