Cal/OSHA Update for Fully Vaccinated Employees: For Real This Time… We’re Pretty Sure.

June 18, 2021 11:17 am

The past few weeks have been a Cal/OSHA Roller Coaster, haven’t they? Updated regulations proposed, paused, revised, passed, withdrawn, and proposed again as well-meaning employers scrambled to keep up. The latest iteration of Cal/OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) was released for public comment on June 11, and was passed by the Board on June 17. It’s great news for employers, and we think it’s actually going to stick this time!

Physical Distancing

Surprisingly, the entire section on Physical Distancing is removed from the ETS. This means employers do not need to enforce distancing requirements for any employees, except when an employee is not vaccinated and cannot wear a face covering due to a health condition.

Face Coverings

Your fully vaccinated employees are not required to wear face coverings in any situations.

Employees who are not fully vaccinated must be provided with face coverings (N95 masks or “respirators” not necessary) and are required to wear them, with the following exceptions: • They are alone in a room or vehicle, • They are eating/drinking outdoors, or indoors at least 6 feet away from others and outside air supply has been maximized to the extent feasible, or • They are exempt from wearing a face covering due to a physical/mental health condition. An employee cannot be prevented from wearing a face covering if they choose to do so, unless it would create a safety hazard, and employees must be provided with face coverings if requested, regardless of vaccination status.

If an unvaccinated employee requests a respirator (N95 mask) for voluntary use when working indoors or in a vehicle with more than one person, the employer must provide a respirator of the correct size and encourage the employee to use it.

If an employee cannot wear a mask due to a health condition, he/she should wear a non-restrictive alternative, such as a face shield with a drape on the bottom. If that is not possible due to the health condition, and if the person is not fully vaccinated, he/she must maintain 6 feet distance from others and be tested weekly for COVID-19 at the company’s expense and on paid time.

COVID Testing and Workplace Exclusion

Previous rules regarding exclusion of employees who report exposure to a COVID-19 case remain in place, with the following exceptions:

  • The employee is fully vaccinated, or
  • The employee previously had COVID-19 and has remained symptom-free for at least 90 days since the onset of his/her symptoms (or at least 90 days since taking a positive test, if asymptomatic.)

If the exposure is work-related, the employee must receive full pay and benefits as if he/she were still working, unless the employee is receiving State Disability Insurance payments or is covered by workers’ compensation disability benefits. If any employee reports potential COVID-19 symptoms, regardless of vaccination status, COVID-19 testing must be made available at no charge to the employee during paid time. If the employee is not vaccinated, he/she should be excluded from the workplace until at least ten days have passed since the onset of symptoms.

Employee Vaccination Status

Cal/OSHA defines “fully vaccinated” as: “the employer has documented that the person received, at least 14 days prior, either the second dose in a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine series or a single-dose vaccine.”

Because almost all of the updated regulations hinge on whether or not an employee has received the vaccine, we recommend asking employees to provide copies of their vaccination cards for your records (stored in their medical/confidential files.) Any employee who prefers not to provide this information must follow the protocols for unvaccinated staff.

Moving forward, employers may consider including COVID-19 vaccination in the physical requirements of a job and request the information from job applicants. Of course, inability to receive the vaccine due to a medical condition or religious belief must be reasonably accommodated in the same manner as other disabilities/observances.

COVID-19 Prevention Plans

If Sierra HR has prepared a COVID-19 Prevention Plan (CPP) for your business, it will need to be revised based on the new Cal/OSHA standard. Thankfully, the updates will make the plan document simpler, rather than adding new requirements. We will be working on updated CPP wording, and will reach out to you when the new information is ready. Please contact us directly if you have questions about the status of your CPP.


This feels like several wonderful steps in the right direction, but we know there will continue to be ups and downs. Sierra HR Partners will maintain awareness of changing state and local regulations, and update clients of any new requirements. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our certified Consultants with any questions or concerns you have. We’re here to help!

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