On April 6, 2021, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that California plans to reopen its economy on June 15, so long as COVID-19 vaccination rates continue to increase and hospitalizations remain stable.
However, the governor’s office also said that mask mandates will continue to stay in effect. Furthermore, federal agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are still recommending that employees must still wear masks.
So, as many employers get ready to welcome employees back into the office, they must protect both workers and customers from COVID-19 in a similar manner to approaching any other workplace safety issues. In this case, the hazard is a communicable disease, as opposed to dangerous equipment or wet floors.
Essentially, employers are responsible for providing a safe workplace for all employees, which means adhering to guidelines set forth by Cal/OSHA and county public health agencies. According to Cal/OSHA, masks have been required in the workplace since November 2020.
As of right now, employees are not required by law to get a vaccine in order to return to the workplace. This means employers must understand that not every employee will get vaccinated, so they should avoid creating different rules for vaccinated workers and those who are unvaccinated.
Additionally, employers should ensure masks are always worn properly and provide disposable masks, gloves, and make hand sanitizer easily accessible throughout the workplace. If an employee complains about a safety issue, such as another worker’s failure to properly wearing a mask or the lack of proper protective equipment available to employees, they are engaged in a protected activity and such concerns can be expressed to Cal/OSHA.
If an employee cannot wear a mask due to health or other reasons that are legally protected, employers should present alternative solutions, including working remotely or wearing a face shield instead of a mask. Employees who can wear masks but continuously violate company policy should face similar discipline as those who violate other safety protocols.
If you are facing an employment law matter in California, contact Polaris Law Group today at (888) 796-4010 and discuss your case with our experienced attorney. We proudly serve clients in Redding, Sacramento, Santa Rosa, Oakland, San Francisco, the Bay Area, Stockton, Modesto, Pleasanton, Redwood City, San Jose, the Silicon Valley, Hollister, Salinas, Fresno, Bakersfield, Santa Barbara, Oxnard, Santa Clarita, Riverside & San Bernardino, Orange County, and San Diego.