Mask Mandate Rollback in California: What Employers Need to Know

The expiration of the California mask mandate will mean changes. Read more for what employers need to know.

This blog post can also be found on our Coronavirus Resource Center.

The statewide mask mandate in California expires February 15, 2022. While the relaxing of this mandate will bring some change, it is important for employers to know what this does and does not mean for them.

face masks n95 stacked

Several counties are not going to relax their local mask mandates until certain metrics are attained, and where a person can go without a mask will be different from county to county. Two counties stating that they will not follow the state’s example are Santa Clara County (metric-based) and LA County (may relax outdoor, but no word on indoor). It is important to check your local mask mandates before making changes to your practices and policies.

California OSHA posted some changes to their ETS FAQs which help explain how the CDPH and ETS regulations are meant to interact.

Q: What impact does CDPH's Guidance for the Use of Masks have on the COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS)?

A: Cal/OSHA's face covering requirements are detailed in the ETS. The ETS requires that employers "provide face coverings and ensure they are worn by employees when required by orders" of the California Department of Public Health. (Cal. Code Regs., tit. 8, § 3205(c)(6)(B).) The CDPH guidance is such an order.


New Changes Apply to Fully Vaccinated Employees

Another important note is that the new change only applies to fully vaccinated employees. Unvaccinated employees will have to continue wearing masks indoors, and employers will have to continue enforcing that measure. For some employers, a desire to avoid drawing attention to unvaccinated employees may drive policy decisions and postpone any updates to company mask-wearing requirements for now.

For an employee to be considered fully vaccinated and therefore able to go maskless indoors, the employer must have documented the employee’s vaccination status; as of now, “fully vaccinated” does not include booster shots, but that may become required in time. The self-attestation allowances mentioned in the updated state mandate do not apply to employees and employers in the work setting. An employee can self-attest to being vaccinated for purposes of employer documentation, but the documentation must be in place for them to be maskless in the workplace.

Regulation Changes from the CDPH Must Be Monitored by Employers

California OSHA tied some (but not all) of their face-covering requirements to CDPH regulation and recommendation changes. This means that employers will also have to monitor regulation changes from the CDPH.

For now, employers within the following industries will be required to continue enforcing indoor mask and face-covering measures for both employees and visitors:

Cal OSHA 3205, 3205.1, 3205.2, 3205.3, and 3205.4 (the emergency temporary standard) are still in force, and while they allow for changes along with CDPH changes, there are still elements within the ETS mentioned outside of CDPH face-covering guidelines that will presumably continue to be required and enforced.

Here are guidelines for face coverings from Cal OSHA which may continue to be enforced:
  • Face covers must still be worn by both screeners and those being screened at indoor screening stations [3205(c)(2)(B)].
  • Unvaccinated employees can still ask for N95 respirators for voluntary use [3205(c)(5)(E)].
  • All employees can still request face coverings regardless of vaccination status [3205(c)(6)(H)].
  • Unvaccinated employees must still use face coverings, and employers must enforce this. Both the CDPH and 3205 regulations require this.
  • Mask and respirator provision during outbreaks as found in 3205.1(d)(1-2) has not changed.
  • Respirator provision requirements during large outbreaks as found in 3205.2(c)(1) remain.
  • Provision of face coverings in employer-provided housing as outlined in 3205.3(d) remains.
  • Provision of face coverings and respirators as outlined in 3205.4(c) has not changed.

If you have questions about these changes and how they will affect you, please feel free to contact your Woodruff Sawyer account team.



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