A Letter to Business Owners: New Guidelines Related to Return to Work and Masks/No Masks

COVID has turned our state upside down as it pertains to how employers interact with their employees and questions arise as to just what needs to be done to follow work environment guidelines. Unfortunately, policies and guidelines are constantly changing, but we endeavor to provide you the latest. Here, through this blog post, find some semblance of guidance in this murky area. Uplift Law will be there to guide you through the questionable.  

So, has anything really changed in the State of California? Yes

  • Physical distancing requirements have been removed from the workplace as of June 17th (CAL/OSHA). This means no more floor signage, separators, or plexiglass. 
  • Workers are no longer required to wear a mask outdoors regardless of their vaccination status.
  • Employers may allow fully vaccinated employees not to wear face coverings indoors, but must document their vaccination status. Forms of documentation to be kept by employers:
    • Employees can self-attest to vaccination status and employer must maintain a record of who self attests;
    • Copies of employee’s vaccine card or health care document showing vaccination status; or
    • A record of the employees who presented proof, but no the vaccine record itself.
  • Employers may not retaliate against employees for wearing face coverings.

For a full list of the changes to workplace guidelines see: https://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/coronavirus/Revisions-FAQ.html

Physical Distancing:

Physical distancing is no longer required by employers but remains an option.

Masks Outdoors:

Employers do not have to require employees to wear masks outdoors. 

Masks Indoors:

From what we can tell about the new indoor mask guidelines it seems that employees who self-attest or provide documentation of vaccination are not required to wear a mask indoors. As an employer, it is important to note that you have 3 options regarding vaccine documentation: allowing employees to self-attest to being vaccinated (honor system); requesting actual documentation of vaccination; or asking for other documents that would support the employees’ claim of vaccination. Depending on your business industry, some options may be a better fit for your company. For instance, restaurants may wish to require actual hard copies of vaccination to help protect against a patron’s claim that they were exposed to covid-19 in your facility. Again, this is up to you.  

Requiring Vaccination:

We’ve heard many businesses express concern about potential HIPAA violations and Discrimination issues revolving around requiring employees to get vaccinated. Let us put you at ease, askingfor proof of vaccination from your employees is not a violation of HIPAA (CAL/OSHA). The Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) has stated that businesses are allowed to require vaccination as a contingency of employment, but must make reasonable accommodations for “individuals with a disability or sincerely-held religious belief” (DFEH). As you can see, making vaccination a contingency of employment could open your business to potential discrimination lawsuits but is still allowed. 

Things that have not changed:

  • Cleaning/Sanitizing (Yes, we know it’s been a pain)
  • COVID-19 Prevention Program
  • Training and Instruction to employees on employer’s prevention plan and their rights under the ETS (emergency temporary standards)
  • Notify public health departments of outbreaks
  • Notification to employees of exposure and close contacts
  • Requirements to offer testing after potential exposures
  • Requirements for responding to covid 19 cases and outbreaks
  • Quarantine and exclusion pay requirements 
  • Basic prevention requirements for employer-provided housing and transportation

Tune into Uplift Law where we always make your business our business.