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The Cal/OSHA Standards Board just released its latest round of proposed amendments to Cal/OSHA’s COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS). If adopted, the new amendments will allow all employees to forgo physical distancing at work regardless of vaccination status. And vaccinated employees will be able to take off their masks, even while indoors. The changes are expected to take effect June 28, but may be implemented sooner.

The proposed amendments represent another dramatic reversal of the workplace rules for California employees, and effectively will relax those rules beyond current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance, which still recommends that unvaccinated persons physically distance both indoors and outdoors.

The Standards Board released the new proposed amendments just two days after the board voted to withdraw other revisions to the ETS that were already pending administrative review. We blogged here and here about how the board reversed course at its June 9 meeting, voting to withdraw amendments to the ETS it had approved just days prior at its June 3 meeting.

Now, the Standards Board will consider and vote on the latest amendments on June 17 – so employers should not take any action just yet. As we have seen, the Standards Board can quickly change its positions on ETS amendments.


Continue Reading Social Distancing? Gone! Masks? No Longer Required! Cal/OSHA Continues to Whipsaw California Employers with Proposed Rule Changes

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Mark Twain never actually said “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”  But had he sat in on yesterday’s (June 3, 2021) Cal/OSHA Standards Board meeting, he might have said something similar about the proposed amendments to Cal/OSHA’s COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (“ETS”).

And no one would blame him because, less than an hour after voting to reject the proposed amendments to the ETS, Cal/OSHA’s Standards Board completely changed course by voting unanimously to approve the amendments. The amended ETS, which will apply to most California employers and workplaces, is expected to take effect June 15.

What does this mean for California employers?

In summary, the amendments will require employees who work indoors to continue wearing face coverings indefinitely, except in certain limited circumstances, but also will allow employers to relax physical distancing requirements after confirming which employees are fully vaccinated and providing unvaccinated employees with respirators for their voluntary use.


Continue Reading Cal/OSHA Board Votes to Approve Amendments to COVID-19 ETS Almost Immediately After Voting To Reject Them

Apparently Cal/OSHA is not yet ready for California workplaces to do away with masks and social distancing, despite the recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) and California state guidance allowing fully vaccinated persons to forgo masks and distancing indoors. On May 28, 2021, Cal/OSHA’s Standards Board – a seven member body appointed by the Governor that is responsible for adopting “reasonable and enforceable standards” for the agency – published proposed amendments to the Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) currently applicable to most worksites. Though many thought Cal/OSHA would fall in line with the California state guidance saying that vaccinated employees do not need not to wear masks or physically separate indoors as of June 15 (and leaving it up to employers to figure out how to determine who is vaccinated and who is not), Cal/OSHA appears to be leaning in a different direction.

Face coverings required indefinitely for indoor worksites

If the Standards Board approves the proposed amendments to the ETS at its upcoming June 3 meeting, Cal/OSHA will continue to require face coverings for all indoor worksites, with no end date specified. Employers will have to provide and “ensure” employees wear face coverings indoors, unless all persons “in a room” are fully vaccinated and do not have COVID-19 symptoms. In that case, the employees in that room don’t have to wear face coverings.

Otherwise, with only relatively minor exceptions for employees who cannot wear face coverings due to medical or mental health conditions or disabilities, or for tasks that cannot be performed while wearing a face covering, face coverings will be required indoors without regard to vaccination status.

For outdoor worksites, employees must wear face coverings if they are within six feet of other persons unless they are fully vaccinated and do not have COVID-19 symptoms (of course, under the ETS, employers should keep any employees who have COVID-19 symptoms away from the work place in any event).


Continue Reading Cal/OSHA Signals That It Intends to Require Masks and Physical Distancing Throughout the Summer — In Stark Contrast to California’s Targeted Reopening Date of June 15

Employers have been awaiting guidance from the EEOC on vaccine-related incentives since the EEOC stated in April 2021 that it would issue new guidance (but declined to state when). Now, they have it. On May 28, 2021, the EEOC issued updated and expanded COVID-19 guidance in its technical assistance document “What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws.” The updated guidance provides clarification and supplements the original December 2020 version of Section K (“Vaccines”) of the technical assistance.

Key updates regarding incentives include:

  • From a federal EEO standpoint, employers administering vaccines to their employees can offer incentives for their employees to be vaccinated, as long as the incentives are not coercive-but a large incentive could make employees feel pressured to disclose protected medical information by way of pre-vaccination disability-related screening questions.
  • Federal EEO laws do not prevent or limit employers from offering incentives to employees to voluntarily provide documentation or other confirmation of vaccination obtained from a third party (not the employer) in the community, such as a pharmacy, personal health care provider, or public clinic. Employers must keep vaccination information confidential pursuant to the ADA.

Notably, the EEOC stated in this update that it is beyond the EEOC’s jurisdiction to discuss the legal implications of the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) status of the three COVID-19 vaccinations or the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approach to vaccine authorization–a response to “many inquiries” the EEOC received about the type of authorization granted the vaccines by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the FDA.


Continue Reading EEOC Updates its COVID-19 Technical Assistance: Employers Administering Vaccines Can Offer Non-Coercive Incentives to Employees

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On-site Employee Health Screening No Longer Required in San Francisco but Masks and Distancing Remain

On May 20, 2021, San Francisco’s Department of Public Health updated the city’s Health Order to loosen COVID-19 restrictions. Under the new rules, businesses are no longer required to perform health screenings for all personnel and patrons, unless required by the state. Public health officials credited the ongoing vaccination effort in bringing COVID-19 cases to the lowest levels seen during the pandemic. As of May 19, 76% of eligible San Francisco residents have been vaccinated, one of the highest vaccination rates in the country.


Continue Reading The Shifting Sands of COVID-19 Regulations: New Rules Regarding Health Screening, Vaccine Cards and Vaccine Passports

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