As California marches towards its June 15 reopening date, nearly half of its population has received a COVID-19 vaccination at this point. Many employers see the increased vaccine eligibility and supply as providing the opportunity to return employees to the workplace in some capacity. Complicating the issue is continually revised government guidelines from agencies such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), specifically those concerning vaccinated individuals.
With all the evolving guidelines plus the media attention on them, employers are confused on which policies and procedures they should maintain for the workplace and whether they can have different rules for vaccinated employees versus non-vaccinated. Unfortunately for employers, the loosening government guidelines don’t impact workplace rules. In the workplace, employers must continue to follow the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards.
As previously reported, on November 30, 2020, Cal/OSHA implemented a complex set of workplace rules designed to prevent and mitigate COVID-19 infections in the workplace. The rules require employers to create and maintain a written COVID-19 Prevention Plan that provides workplace requirements for those employees reporting to a physical worksite. These requirements include subjects such as face covering rules, physical distancing, testing protocols and the circumstances when an employee must be excluded from the workplace due to an infection or being in close contact with an infected person.
In its guidance, Cal/OSHA states that it will continue to enforce the full scope of the COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards regardless of employees’ vaccination status. This means rules, such as wearing face coverings indoors when in the same room as another person or excluding an employee due to a close contact with a COVID-19 infected person, are still in effect regardless of any other guidelines issued by the CDC or CDPH.
So, as of now, employers should continue to follow all Cal/OSHA rules regardless of employees’ vaccination status. Cal/OSHA continues to receive stakeholder feedback, including from CalChamber, regarding potential changes to these regulations regarding vaccinations, so stay tuned!