New California COVID-19 Workplace Guidelines Adopted: Governor Newsom Orders New Rules Effective from June 17, 2021 through January 13, 2022

California is now fully open – including the workplace. The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines apply to the public at large. But, as employers, it is also important to understand how the Cal/OSHA guidelines apply to your employees and within the workplace. So, how do these new guidelines affect your business?

 

RULES FOR BUSINESSES AND THEIR PATRONS

According to the CDPH, there are three options related to mask requirements for businesses and their guests, visitors, and patrons. A business may choose to:

  • allow vaccinated patrons to self-attest that they are in compliance prior to entry;
  • implement vaccine verification to determine whether patrons are required to wear a mask; or
  • require all patrons to wear masks.

Note: For those desiring to implement vaccine verification, businesses may request patrons and employees to share proof of their vaccination by either showing the vaccination card they were given at time of vaccination or by using the electronic version from this portal: https://myvaccinerecord.cdph.ca.gov/.

It is within every business’s discretion to choose the option that works best for that business.  Nevertheless, businesses are wise to review the pros and cons of the options with legal counsel.

 

RULES FOR BUSINESSES AND THEIR EMPLOYEES

On June 17, 2021, the Cal/OSHA Board voted to approve the COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) governing California workplaces. The ETS now largely mirrors the guidance from CDPH and the CDC. Typically, the revised ETS would not take effect until approved by the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) over a 10-day review period; however, immediately after the Board’s vote, Governor Newsom issued an Executive Order waiving the 10-day period, making it take effect once filed with the Secretary of State. That has happened. Accordingly, the newly revised ETS took effect on June 17, 2021, and is intended to remain in effect until January 13, 2022.

The Cal/OSHA also has provided direction to employers on the new ETS by updating the FAQs on its website. Below are a few highlights of the revised ETS that employers should be aware of:

  • vaccinated employees are no longer required to wear masks;
  • vaccinated employees no longer need to socially distance;
  • there is no longer a requirement for daily disinfecting;
  • there is no longer a need to exclude vaccinated employees from work if they have a close contact with a COVID-19 positive person; and
  • employers may provide unvaccinated employees with respirators, only upon their request.

However, under the CDC and Federal guidance, unvaccinated persons are still required to wear face coverings and physically distance indoors. Unfortunately, this leaves some questions unanswered for California businesses. Until additional guidance is issued, businesses must be aware of the Cal/OSHA and the CDPH requirements, including appropriate record keeping and what can be done if a patron or employee refuses to answer questions about their vaccination status. Again, when questions with patrons or employees arise, it is always best to consult with legal counsel.

It goes without saying that everyone is glad we are moving back to normalcy after a year that was anything but normal. Yet, many legal issues remain. As always, Dunn DeSantis Walt & Kendrick LLP is available to help answer questions you may have.

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