California Employers May be Able to Avoid Mask Mandates for Fully Vaccinated Workers

Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask or physically distance in a non-healthcare setting, which includes the majority of workplaces. However, this guidance came with an important caveat that it did not supplant local, state, or federal law as well as any other relevant ordinances or regulations. There does appear to be some steps that employers could take to provide a safe, mask-less workplace for fully vaccinated employees. If you have questions about COVID-19 rules in a California workplace, talk to an experienced employment lawyer in your area today.

Considerations for a Mask-less Workplace

There are some considerations that an employer must take into account before implementing steps for a mask-less workplace in California. First, local rules may require employers to enforce a mask mandate despite employees’ fully vaccinated status. If employers mandate the vaccine for employees, they must still allow for exceptions based on a medical or religious need, and if employers do not mandate the vaccine for employees they should track who is and is not vaccinated. Retaliation, discrimination, and harassment is also not allowed of employees who opt to not get the vaccine in a workplace that does not mandate it for its workers.

Steps for a Mask-less Workplace

Despite the hurdles involved, California employers may still be able to operate a mask-less workplace for vaccinated employees. First, an employer must check the local and California state regulations on wearing masks in the workplace. Next, check with OSHA for state requirements; however, the organization recently announced that it agreed with the CDC guidance on mask-less workplaces for fully vaccinated employees. Employers that do mandate the vaccine must allow for exceptions for valid reasons or face liability, and if employers do not mandate the vaccine they are only allowed to ask whether or not an employee is vaccinated, but not why. Finally, any employees that choose to remain unvaccinated and masked in the workplace must not be subject to retaliation or other unnecessary adverse employment actions by their employer, including discrimination or harassment. However, if an employer follows these steps, they may be able to provide a mask-less workplace to California employees that are fully vaccinated for COVID-19.

Handling Masks for Customers, Clients, and Guests

Unfortunately, neither the CDC nor OSHA has clear guidelines on how employers should handle the wearing of masks for customers, clients, or guests at a workplace. There is no clear answer at this time, as asking these types of people for vaccination status comes with its own risks. At this point, the safest option is to continue to require masks for anyone with an unknown or negative vaccination status until further guidance is released.

Call or Contact an Employment Lawyer Today

Do you have questions or concerns about returning to work or COVID-19 guidelines for California workplaces, an employment law attorney will be able to help with your potential claims. Call or contact an employment lawyer in your area today to learn more.