Little about the COVID-19 pandemic has been predictable. The same is true of Cal/OSHA.
As employers throughout the State of California are aware, last November Cal/OSHA promulgated extensive COVID-19 regulations (known as the Emergency Temporary Standards, or “ETS”). Given that these regulations were enacted before the availability of COVID-19 vaccinations, these regulations did not consider vaccination status and mandated (among other things) strict masking policies to protect workers from COVID-19. Just last week, however, Cal/OSHA updated these regulations to account for the emerging reality of a vaccinated workforce. Notable revisions included a no-mask requirement for fully vaccinated employees and the elimination of social distancing in some contexts (e.g., here and here).
Employers and employees alike welcomed these changes.
But then, just yesterday, Cal/OSHA unexpectedly threw its revisions out the window (here)! And that means that employers in the State must continue to follow lock-and-step the State’s original ETS (COVID-19) regulations and mandate that employees be masked at work—even if they are fully vaccinated—and enforce strict social-distancing protocols.
If all this sounds as if it cuts against the CDC’s latest guidance about vaccinated individuals (e.g., here), that’s because it does. There’s no way around it: Cal/OHSA’s actions pit employers against the CDC and compel employers to ignore nationally-established policy.
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