California to Lift Certain COVID-19-Related Masking Rules


California's indoor masking requirements will be dropped in many settings beginning Feb. 16 for people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). However, employers may still be covered by other directives that require masking.   

"Only unvaccinated persons are required to mask in all indoor public settings," the CDPH said. "Fully vaccinated individuals are recommended to continue indoor masking when the risk may be high."

Employers in the state must still ensure compliance with local COVID-19 safety rules, as well as evolving standards from the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA).

Multistate employers should note that other states, including Illinois and New York, plan to take similar steps to roll back COVID-19-related restrictions, including certain masking requirements, according to CNN.

We've gathered articles on California's masking rules from SHRM Online and other media outlets.

Updated Masking Requirements 

Despite lifting some statewide masking rules, masks are required for everyone in California, regardless of vaccination status, in the following indoor settings:

  • On public transit, such as airplanes, ships, ferries, trains, subways, buses, taxis and ride-shares.
  • In transportation hubs, such as airports, bus terminals, marinas and train stations.
  • Indoors in K-12 schools and child care settings.
  • Emergency shelters and cooling and heating centers.
  • Health care settings.
  • State and local correctional facilities and detention centers.
  • Homeless shelters.
  • Long-term-care settings and adult and senior care facilities.

Business leaders should note that people who are unvaccinated must still wear masks in retail stores, restaurants, theaters, family entertainment centers, meetings, and state and local government offices that serve the public. 

"Employers must allow employees to wear face coverings if they voluntarily choose to do so, unless it would create a safety hazard, such as interfering with the safe operation of equipment," according to state guidelines.


Schools Are Still Covered by Masking Rules

Teachers, staff and students at California schools must continue to wear masks indoors regardless of vaccination status. California health officials said they are "continuing to work with education, public health and community leaders to update masking requirements at schools to adapt to changing conditions and ensure the safety of kids, teachers and staff."

(CBS News)

Employers Should Continue Monitoring Rules

Cal/OSHA amended its COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS), effective Jan. 14. "Under the current ETS, unvaccinated individuals in the workplace must wear a mask," noted law firm Jackson Lewis. "If an employer is not tracking vaccination status, then it must treat all employees as unvaccinated—meaning all employees would have to wear a mask." Employers should note that the ETS also requires masking when there's a coronavirus outbreak and in other situations.

Employers should also check local health orders and ordinances regarding masking because some localities plan to continue their universal masking requirements after the statewide rules change.

(Jackson Lewis)

Looking Ahead

The COVID-19 pandemic will continue to impact employers in 2022, even as California officials lift pandemic-related economic and workplace restrictions. "Workplace safety rules for California employers are ever-changing, and HR professionals should monitor federal, state and local public health guidance to determine their obligations with regard to COVID-19 workplace requirements," said Jim Evans, an attorney with Alston & Bird in Los Angeles.

As pandemic-related rules change, Evans noted, HR professionals should be prepared for requests to continue remote-work arrangements and have clear, documented explanations why certain positions can be remote and why others require a physical presence. "Employers should be careful in considering employee accommodation requests," he said.

(SHRM Online)

Visit SHRM's resource hub page on COVID-19 and the coronavirus



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