Indoor masking is back across the state of California. As a response to the Omicron variant, the California Department of Public Health (“CDPH”) has reinstituted indoor masking across the state, regardless of vaccination status. This requirement is in effect from December 15, 2021, until at least January 15, 2022.
Who Does the Indoor Masking Requirement Apply to?
The CDPH guidance states that masks are required for all individuals in “indoor public settings” regardless of vaccination status. However, it is unclear if this requirement solely applies to businesses open to the public (retail stores, bars, restaurants, etc.) or also applies to private workplaces. Until otherwise clarified by CDPH or Cal/OSHA, we recommend that all employers assume that the indoor mask requirement applies to them.
What About the Local Mask Mandates?
The CDPH has stated that its updated guidance applies only to those local health jurisdictions that do not already have an existing indoor masking requirement for public settings.
Are There Exemptions to the Indoor Masking Requirement?
Yes. The following individuals are exempt from the latest mask mandate:
- Persons younger than two years old. Very young children must not wear a mask because of the risk of suffocation.
- Persons with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that prevents wearing a mask. This includes persons with a medical condition for whom wearing a mask could obstruct breathing or who are unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a mask without assistance.
- Persons who are hearing impaired, where the ability to lipread is essential for successful communication.
- Persons for whom wearing a mask would create a risk to the person related to their work, as determined by local, state, or federal regulators or workplace safety guidelines.
What Should Employers Do?
As stated above, employers should assume that the indoor mask mandate applies to them also. After instituting the mask mandate, employers should address any potential mask-exemption request in the same manner as dealing with employees who may need a reasonable accommodation—i.e., by engaging in an interactive process.
Additional information from the CDPH on Face Coverings can be found here.
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