As more Americans receive COVID-19 vaccinations, a number of our clients have asked whether employees who provide proof of such vaccination can be excused from workplace COVID-19 control measures such as mask wearing. Unfortunately, at least for now, employers should not agree to relaxing these requirements, even for fully vaccinated people.
According to the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, vaccinated people should continue to wear masks and practice social distancing in areas where there are significant numbers of people, or where the vaccination of all present is not certain. These recommendations may change if the CDC concludes that vaccinated people do not have a significant chance of transmitting the virus to others.
Even if this guidance changes, employers may face practical issues with dropping mask mandates for vaccinated employees only. Will this single out unvaccinated people, thereby causing unintended employee relations issues? Will supervisors be able to distinguish who is and is not required to continue wearing masks?
Some states have already dropped their mask mandates. However, these state actions do not prevent employees concerned about workplace COVID-19 protections from complaining to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration about the lack of masks in the workplace. Until the underlying scientific recommendations change, employers should continue to keep in place CDC’s recommended protocols.
Coming Soon: Revisions to Cal OSHA’s COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards Anticipated by June 2021
- Establish, implement, and maintain an effective written COVID-19 Prevention Program.
- Implement COVID-19 preventative measures.
- Report information to their local health department.
- Retain records related to COVID-19 cases in the workplace in a confidential manner.
- Exclude workers known to have COVID-19 or who have had exposure.
- Identify and manage COVID-19 infections and outbreaks in the workplace.
Unfortunately, the ETS are already lagging behind federal and state guidance pertaining to COVID-19. In particular, the ETS do not take into consideration guidance from the CDC regarding fully vaccinated individuals.
At the Cal OSHA Standard Board meeting on April 15th, several public commenters admonished the Standard Board about the lack of guidance from Cal OSHA or in the ETS regarding vaccinated individuals. The Standard Board disclosed that revisions to the ETS, including revisions about vaccinated individuals are in progress. Though it would be difficult due to tight timelines, the Standard Board hoped to have revisions passed by June, when California is tentatively set to fully reopen.