To Mask, or Not to Mask? That (at Least in the Employment Context) Is Still a Question

by Meagan D. Bainbridge
The Labor & Employment Law Blog

As California races towards reopening, employers are receiving (often conflicting) guidance on reopening procedures, especially with respect to when a mask is required for vaccinated individuals. In welcome news, it appears the various state agencies are moving towards more uniform policies, which will greatly relieve employers throughout the State.

California Department of Health Guidelines

First, on June 9th, California’s Health and Human Services Agency announced that California would be following the federal CDC guidance with respect to masking. Beginning on June 15th, individuals who are vaccinated are not required to wear a mask in public settings, except where masking of all individuals is required. Those situations include the following circumstances:

  • While on public transit.
  • Indoors in K-12 schools, childcare, and other youth settings.
  • In healthcare settings.
  • In state and local correctional facilities and detention centers.
  • In homeless shelters, emergency shelters, and cooling centers.

The Health and Human Services Agency also provided the following guidance specifically to businesses who welcome the public to their premises. The Agency recommends that such businesses choose one of the following options with respect to masking:

  • Provide information to all patrons, guests, and attendees regarding vaccination requirements and allow vaccinated individuals to self-attest that they are in compliance prior to entry.
  • Implement vaccine verification to determine whether individuals are required to wear a mask.
  • Require all patrons to wear masks.

The Agency made clear that no person can be prevented from wearing a mask as a condition of participation in an activity or entry into a business.

The Public Health Guidance can be found here.

Cal/OSHA Guidelines

On June 4, 2021, we told you that the Cal/OSHA Standards Board approved revisions to the COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards that contained controversial masking mandates. Yesterday, the Cal/OSHA Board met again in an emergency session and unanimously voted to rescind those revisions. The Board is expected to review (and possibly vote to adopt) new masking regulations that more fully align with California’s guidelines at their next scheduled meeting, which is on June 17. In the meantime, the emergency regulations adopted in November 2020 will remain in effect. Those regulations can be reviewed here.