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Cal/OSHA approves rules allowing fully vaccinated workers to go without masks

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Posted at 2:20 PM, Jun 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-18 13:01:38-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Thursday, California workplace regulators approved revised pandemic-related rules that allow fully vaccinated workers to go without masks in the workplace.

The new California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board rules line up with the state's stance on fully vaccinated individuals, which took effect on Tuesday and ended most mask rules for fully vaccinated residents.

Regulators approved the new rules on a 5-1 vote. The rules apply to nearly every workplace in California.

Cal/OSHA's new regulations allow employees who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus to work without a face covering, except in certain situations. Fully vaccinated individuals wouldn't need to be tested for COVID-19 or quarantine after close contact with a case unless they showed symptoms.

Thursday evening, Gov. Gavin Newsom today signed an executive order enabling the revisions to take effect without the normal 10-day legal review period by the Office of Administrative Law.

Last week, Cal/OSHA's Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board issued recommendations to revised rules, including:

  • Employers must verify and document the vaccination status of fully vaccinated workers if they do not wear masks indoors;
  • Employers must make COVID-19 testing to unvaccinated employees who have symptoms, as well as vaccinate workers who have symptoms after close contact with a COVID-19 case;
  • Workers must be allowed to wear a face-covering if they chose without fear of retaliation from employers;
  • Employers must provide workers who are not fully vaccinated with respirators for voluntary use, upon request and at no cost;
  • Employers must evaluate ventilation systems to maximize outdoor air and increase filtration efficiency, and evaluate the use of additional air cleaning systems, except in cases where letting in outdoor air would cause a hazard

Dan Eaton, a San Diego attorney specializing in employment law, says it's important to remember that employers and businesses are allowed to set stricter standards. Meaning, the new Cal/OSHA rules are simply a minimum and each employer still has a lot of flexibility.

For instance, regarding documenting employee vaccination status if they choose not to wear a mask indoors. An employer can either require proof of vaccination or allow employees to self-report.

"Now employers can fulfill their duty simply by having their employees tell them their vaccination status and then record it and keep that record confidential," said Eaton.

Employers may also continue to require masks for everyone, regardless of their vaccination status.

As for whether workers have any legal standing to challenge the rules, Eaton said, "they certainly have a choice and that's to work somewhere else just as a person who doesn't like a business' mask mandate has the choice to shop somewhere else."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.