Mask Mandates: California’s New COVID-19 Workplace Safety Rules

As of June 15th, California officially has new COVID-19 workplace safety standards. These new rules are designed to protect workers and customers from the risks of the virus while also respecting personal choice.

The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal-OSHA) has put the new rules in place. The statewide mask mandate ended on the 15th, and the CDC states people can safely stop wearing masks. Still, Cal-OSHA can create rules that apply to employers specifically. These rules can supersede state and federal laws as long as they are more strict, not less.

The agency spent weeks on the subject and took multiple votes to produce practical and safe guidelines. The final result is a set of policies that apply to every employer in the state. Here’s how it will affect you practically and in terms of employment law.

How Mask Mandates Affect You

The new mandate has a significant impact on workers. With a few exceptions, they require workers to continue wearing masks despite the end of the statewide order. Beyond that, the rules look very different if you work indoors or outside and if you’re vaccinated. That’s because these conditions dramatically affect how contagious COVID-19 is and your chances of catching it.

First, if you’re vaccinated and you work outside, your employer is no longer required to make you wear a mask. Between the air movement and the vaccine, you’re considered safe. Employers can request your vaccination card as proof that you have actually been vaccinated, though.

If you work indoors, you must continue to wear a mask even if you’re vaccinated. This is because the vaccine does not prevent every case of COVID-19, so wearing a mask protects you and others from infection. The exception is that if everyone else in the space is also vaccinated, you don’t need a mask.

If you’re unvaccinated, you must wear a mask whether you work inside or out. This is to protect you, your coworkers, and your customers. The only exceptions to this requirement are:

  • People who can’t wear face coverings for medical reasons
  • Employees who can’t perform their specific tasks with a face covering
  • People who are alone in a room
  • Anyone who is actively eating or drinking
  • People who are outdoors and social distancing

What to Do If Your Employer Doesn’t Follow Mask Mandates

Every California employer is legally obligated to follow Cal-OSHA’s masking rules. That means that they must at least follow those guidelines and can institute stricter rules if they want.

Your employer needs to do two things to follow the guidelines. First, they must make sure that all employees wear masks if it’s legally required. Second, they cannot punish anyone who chooses to wear a mask. If your employer tries to prevent you from wearing a mask or if they don’t enforce masking properly, they’re violating Cal-OSHA regulations.

If you notice your employer is violating the new mask rules, you should report them to Cal-OSHA. You should also consider working with a workers’ rights attorney. If you’ve been punished or gotten sick because your employer isn’t following the law, you may be able to sue them. Reach out to an experienced workers’ rights attorney to discuss your case.