August 4, 2021

Employment Law Alert: The Latest on Employee Masking

By Ryan Quadrel

Ryan Quadrel, SBEMP Attorneys, Labor and Employment Law Department

With COVID-19 transmission on the rise again and the spread of the Delta variant, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has announced that universal masking indoors is now recommended statewide, regardless of an individual’s vaccination status.

This update follows similar CDC guidance issued on July 27 recommending that even fully vaccinated individuals should wear masks in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission. The CDC has designated all counties in Southern California as areas of substantial or high transmission, including Riverside.

With the updated guidance from the CDPH and the CDC, we now expect that Cal/OSHA will update its Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) to go back to the way things were before June 17 and require all employees to wear masks in the workplace again, not just the unvaccinated. There is no scheduled Cal/OSHA Advisory Committee meeting until October, but it is quite possible that they would hold an emergency meeting at any time if they are inclined to make such an important change earlier.

In the meantime, local health departments may issue Local Health Orders requiring this sooner. The ETS allows local health departments to impose more restrictive measures, and three counties have already done this (LA, Sacramento and Yolo). We expect that other counties, including Riverside County, will soon adopt similar measures requiring universal masking indoors before Cal/OSHA takes formal action.

If you own any businesses in these counties, you may need to update your policies and practices immediately to comply with applicable health and safety requirements. The rules keep changing and employers should consider taking steps now to get ahead of what appear to be inevitable changes.

Ryan Quadrel is an Associate Attorney with SBEMP Attorneys practicing primarily in labor & employment law. He can be reached at (760) 322-2275 x251 or [email protected].

Nothing in the above article is intended to constitute legal advice. Please seek legal counsel to suit your specific circumstances for any legal advice.


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