IMPORTANT! California: Cal/OSHA Update for COVID-19 Working Requirements


All Employers with CA Employees


June 17, 2021


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Cal/OSHA finally (finally) updated its Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) rules. After multiple revisions, they now align with CDC guidelines and the reopening of the economy. The new rules were set to go into effect on June 28, 2021, but the governor issued an executive order to make them effective on June 17, 2021. Here are some key takeaways for employers.

Updated Definitions

Cal/OSHA updated the definition of “close contact” to replace “COVID-19 exposure”, and excludes people from the definition of having close contact if they are required to wear a respirator (e.g., N95 mask). “COVID-19 case”, “exposed group”, and “face covering” were also further defined or clarified.

Additionally, a person is considered “fully vaccinated” upon providing the employer with documentation showing that it has been at least 14 days following their final vaccine dose. Cal/OSHA recently stated that employers are not required to maintain an actual copy of an employee’s vaccine card but can choose to do so. The recently released FAQs provide further guidance on how to document employees’ vaccination status while respecting their privacy.

Mask Requirements

Unvaccinated workers must still wear face coverings in the workplace and in vehicles with others, subject to limited exception. Employers must make face coverings available to all employees upon request, and must make respirators available to unvaccinated employees upon request.

Workplace Controls

Physical distancing requirements are now eliminated, but still recommended. For indoor air workspaces, employers must evaluate whether using portable or mounted High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filtration units, or other air cleaning systems, would reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Employers must also review the CDPH’s Interim guidance for Ventilation, Filtration, and Air Quality in Indoor Environments.

Employer notice of close contact with a COVID-19 case may now be provided via personal service, email, or text message if received by the employee within one business day of sending. If the employee does not receive notice, the employer must provide verbal notice as soon as practicable. The notice must be verbally translated in a language understandable by the employee if they have “limited literacy” in the language of the notice provided.


Employers must update employee training to include (1) how to participate in the identification and evaluation of COVID-19 hazards; (2) employee benefits available under legally mandated sick and vaccination leave, if applicable; (3) decreasing the spread of COVID-19; (4) information on respirator usage and seal, and benefits of respirators over face coverings; (5) when face coverings must be worn; and (6) the importance and effectiveness of vaccination against COVID-19, where to get vaccinated, and information on the employer’s COVID-19 policies.

Testing and Exclusion

Employer-provided testing following close contact with a COVID-19 case is no longer required for employees who were fully vaccinated before the close contact and do not have COVID-19 symptoms, or for employees who had COVID-19 within the last 90 days and have remained symptom-free.

Importantly, wages and benefits must be paid during an exclusion period, regardless if an employee is otherwise able and available to work. Failure to pay is a wage and hour violation. Reporting requirements to the Division for serious illness and death were also removed.

Outbreaks/Major Outbreaks

During any outbreak, social distancing must be reviewed and improved where feasible. Indoor ventilation must also be improved according to specific requirements. Additionally, outbreaks and major outbreaks are determined based on employee COVID-19 cases, not just any person in the workplace. The rules further clarify that testing is provided to employees in the exposed group during outbreaks and major outbreaks. Major outbreaks are considered over when fewer than three COVID-19 cases occur within a 14-day period in an exposed group. Notification requirements to the local health department are eliminated.

There are also revisions to the employer-provided housing and transportation regulations, including similarly relaxed rules for vaccinated employees.

Action Items

  1. Review the updated regulations here and the FAQ here.
  2. Update training materials and trainers on the new requirements.
  3. Update written COVID-19 prevention plan and required notices.
  4. Stock up on N95 masks.
  5. Review the CDPH’s Interim guidance for Ventilation, Filtration, and Air Quality in Indoor Environments.
  6. Provide respirator users with the information in 8 CCR 5144, Appendix D (“Information for Employees Using Respirators When Not Required Under the Standard”).

Disclaimer: This document is designed to provide general information and guidance concerning employment-related issues. It is presented with the understanding that ManagEase is not engaged in rendering any legal opinions. If a legal opinion is needed, please contact the services of your own legal adviser.

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