Originally Posted June 8th, 2021;  Last Updated June 21st, 2021

On June 17th, 2021, California’s Occupational Safety and Health Division (Cal/OSHA) announced the approval of final California COVID Workplace Regulations. Afterward, Governor Gavin Newson signed an Executive Order placing the regulations into effect immediately. Known as the ETS, Cal/OSHA created and updated versions of the temporary emergency standards throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Previously, the CDC issued updated public health guidelines for vaccinated individuals.

Changes to the California COVID Workplace Regulations

Altogether, the final Revised ETS includes several changes from the original version. Those updates include:

  • Firstly, fully vaccinated employees without symptoms do not need to be tested or quarantined after close contact with COVID-19 cases;
  • Secondly, there are no face-covering requirements outdoors, regardless of employee vaccination status, except during an outbreak;
  • Thirdly, employers can permit fully vaccinated* employees with documented vaccination status to forego face coverings indoors, except during an outbreak;
  • Fourthly, employers cannot retaliate against workers for wearing face coverings, including when the worker is wearing a face-covering voluntarily;

Also, the final rule does not require physical distancing or barrier requirements regardless of employee vaccination status, except during an outbreak.

* ”Fully vaccinated” employees have received, minimally 14 days prior, either the second dose in a vaccine or a single-dose vaccine. Such vaccines must be either FDA-approved or have an FDA emergency use authorization. However, vaccines given outside the United States must be for emergency use by the World Health Organization. Significantly, an employee’s status as “fully vaccinated” must be documented by the employer. Thus, to take advantage of the new ETS, employers will need to request proof of vaccination from employees.

Items Staying the Same in the California COVID Workplace Regulations

Finally, the following items are not changing in the Revised ETS. Employers still must:

  • Maintain an effective written COVID-19 Prevention Program;
  • Provide effective training and instruction to employees on the employer’s prevention plan and their rights under the Revised ETS;
  • Remain mindful of federal, state, and local laws regarding anti-discrimination and reasonable accommodation;
  • Provide notification to public health departments of outbreaks, and must still notify employees of exposure and close contacts;
  • Follow the previous requirements for responding to COVID-19 outbreaks and offering testing after potential exposures;
  • Realize that quarantine/exclusion pay is still in effect; and
  • Employers should continue to monitor other guidance issued by county health officers, as such requirements may impose greater workplace obligations.

Employer Takeaways

In conclusion, nothing in the Revised ETS prevents employers from implementing additional protective measures. For example, if an employer wants to continue using physical distancing and barriers, they can. However, all employers must continue to assess workplace hazards and implement effective controls to prevent disease transmission.