COVID-19 Update: CDPH Ends Indoor Mask Mandate for Unvaccinated Employees


On February 15, 2022, Governor Newsom announced the end of California’s indoor mask mandate for fully-vaccinated individuals. Effective today, March 1, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has also removed the requirement for unvaccinated individuals to wear face coverings indoors. The mandate is being replaced by a “strong recommendation” that all people, regardless of vaccination status, continue to mask when in indoor public settings.

Employers are still bound by the CDPH requirements to exclude employees from work and/or require face coverings if the individual has reported a positive COVID test or has been in close contact with a COVID-19 case. Please refer to our HR Headliner published January 7, 2022 for additional details.

CDPH guidance allows businesses to maintain mask requirements, if they prefer to do so. And, no person may be prevented from voluntarily wearing a mask.

Masks will still be required in specified work environments including healthcare settings and public transit, but will no longer be required in public schools effective March 12, 2022.

As always, Sierra HR Partners is here to help you navigate the ever-changing landscape of COVID-19 precautions and paid leave benefits.  Please contact one of our Consultants with any questions you have.


COVID-19 Update: California Ends Its Indoor Mask Mandate – What Do We Do Now?


California’s indoor mask mandate, imposed on December 13, 2021 in response to surging cases of the Omicron variant, will officially expire tomorrow, February 15, 2022. Governor Newsom’s office cited falling case numbers as the basis for ending the requirement for face coverings indoors. In Fresno County, positive case rates have decreased significantly in the past two weeks.

What Does This Mean for California Employers?

Beginning February 16, most employers in California can once again refer to the Cal/OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard for rules on face coverings. It’s been a little while since we last reviewed these regulations, which were revised on January 14, 2022. Below is a brief summary:

  • Fully vaccinated employees are not required to wear masks indoors, unless the company is experiencing a COVID outbreak. In non-healthcare settings, a booster dose is not required to be considered fully vaccinated.
  • Employees who are not fully vaccinated must wear a mask when working indoors or in a vehicle. The employee may remove the mask if alone in a room or vehicle, or when eating or drinking at least six feet away from others. Accommodations may be made for medical or mental health conditions that prevent the employee from wearing a face covering.
  • Employers must provide face coverings to unvaccinated employees, and ensure the masks are clean and undamaged. Masks must be provided to all employees when required by an order from the California Dept. of Public Health.
  • “Face covering” is defined by Cal/OSHA as, “a surgical mask, a medical procedure mask, a respirator… or a tightly woven fabric…of at least two layers (i.e., fabrics that do not let light pass through when held up to a light source.)”

Certain counties, such as Los Angeles and Santa Clara, will maintain their local masking requirements. Employers should check with local Public Health Departments or contact Sierra HR Partners for specific guidance.

Masks will still be required in specified work environments including healthcare settings, senior care facilities, and K-12 schools.

As always, Sierra HR Partners is here to help you navigate the ever-changing landscape of COVID-19 precautions and paid leave benefits. Please contact one of our Consultants with any questions you have.



COVID-19 Update: California Implements 2022 COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave


On January 25, 2022, Governor Newsom’s office published a press release announcing the return of Supplemental Paid Sick Leave (see our HR Headliner here). That legislation was passed by the state Senate on February 7, and was signed by Governor Newsom today, February 9.

The law will go into effect in ten days, on February 19, 2022, and benefit payments will be retroactive back to January 1 of this year.

Covered Employers and Covered Employees

As predicted, SPSL applies only to employers that employ more than 25 employees. Smaller employers are not required to provide SPSL.

All employees of a covered employer are eligible for SPSL as long as they are unable to work (or telework) for reasons related to COVID-19. There are no length-of-service requirements

Qualifying Reasons for Benefits

These qualifying reasons are familiar. An employee is entitled to SPSL if they cannot work because:

1. They are subject to quarantine or isolation order/guidance.

2. They were advised by a health care provider to quarantine or isolate.

3. They or a family member are receiving a vaccine or vaccine booster.

4. They or a family member are experiencing symptoms due to receiving a vaccine or vaccine booster.

5. They are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and are seeking a medical diagnosis.

6. They are caring for a family member subject to a quarantine or isolation order or recommendation.

7. They are caring for a child whose school or care provider is unavailable.

Conditions and Calculations

Historically, SPSL was an 80-hour benefit with few restrictions. This new SPSL benefit works much differently. Employees are initially eligible for only half of this new benefit – 40 hours for full-time employees – for the reasons listed above. They can qualify for an additional 40 hours only if they or a family member test positive for COVID-19.

Employers can require proof of this positive COVID-19 test. If, for some reason, an employer questions the validity of the documentation provided, the employee can be required to take a diagnostic test (at the employer’s expense) five days after the first test was taken. The employer has no obligation to provide additional SPSL to an employee who refuses to provide documentation of the test results.

Additionally, employers can limit SPSL taken for vaccine/booster appointments and symptoms to 3 days (24 hours) unless the employee provides verification from a health care provider that they need more time.

This supplemental paid sick leave benefit must be in addition to sick leave the employer already provides. That said, if an employer proactively provided a supplemental benefit for employee absences related to COVID-19, they can count that against their obligation to provide SPSL. (This does not apply to an employee’s use of state-mandated paid sick leave.)

An employee cannot be required to use any other paid or unpaid leave, including sick leave and vacation, before he/she is eligible to use SPSL for a qualifying purpose. If the employee must be excluded from work under Cal/OSHA regulations for workplace exposure, the employer must provide exclusion pay as described in the Cal/OSHA ETS, which will not impact the amount of SPSL the employee has available.

SPSL must be paid at the employee’s regular rate of pay for the workweek in which the employee uses the sick time.

Unfortunately, there are no tax credits or refunds attached to SPSL. Employers will need to foot the bill out of their own pockets.

Calculations for Part-Time and Variable Schedules

Full-time employees are eligible for 40 hours of SPSL, with the potential for 40 more hours with a positive COVID test. Part-time employees with regular schedules are entitled to the number of hours they would normally work in one week.

If a part-time employee works a variable schedule, the new SPSL law requires employers to find the employee’s daily average over the last six months (or, for newer employees, the length of their employment) and multiply that times 7 to determine that employee’s SPSL entitlement.

Requesting SPSL

SPSL is to be provided “upon the oral or written request” of the employee. This includes retroactive payment for absences earlier in the year.

Once a request has been made, payment is due by the payday for the next full pay period.

Notice Requirements

The law requires the Labor Commissioner, within the next week, to make a model notice available to employers. Employers must post this notice and provide it to employees who do not visit the workplace. Employers must also provide each employee with written notice of the amount of SPSL he/she has used, either itemized on the check stub or in a separate writing provided on pay day. The notice should list zero hours used if the employee has not used any SPSL under this law.


COVID-19 Update: California Revives COVID-19 Supplemental Paid Sick Leave


As you know, beginning in 2020, state and federal law created paid sick leave benefits for employees who were excluded from work due to a variety of qualifying reasons relating to COVID-19.

With the expiration of those programs on September 30, 2021, employees have relied on existing sick leave and/or vacation benefits to cover missed hours… a situation that has been especially challenging during the Omicron surge. In response, Governor Newsom’s office published a press release Tuesday, January 25, 2022 announcing the return of Supplemental Paid Sick Leave (SPSL).

SPSL 2.0 – What to Plan For

Details about the proposed SPSL benefit are provided in an L. A. Times story published late Tuesday morning. While the text of the Governor’s proposal is not yet available, the Times suggests the following:

• This law would apply to all businesses with 26 or more employees.

• SPSL would be retroactive to January 1, 2022 and expire after September 30, 2022.

• Full-time employees would be eligible for 40 hours of paid time off if they are sick or need to care for loved ones, and for an additional 40 hours if they provide proof of a positive COVID test. Part-time employees would be eligible for pro-rated benefits.

• SPSL could also be used when a parent must stay home with a child who cannot attend school due to COVID-19 exposure or illness.

The agreement between Governor Newsom and legislators is said to include separate proposals to restore tax credits for SPSL.

There is no indication of when this bill will be passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Newsom. Reports simply say that lawmakers will “fast-track” the bill to the Governor “in coming weeks.” It would likely be in effect immediately upon signature.


Sierra HR Partners will provide more information as the proposed text of this bill becomes available to the public. Currently, there is no requirement to provide any supplemental paid time off, but the proposed legislation is retroactive to January 1. We recommend that employers track all COVID-19-related absences and review payroll system settings in preparation for payment of SPSL when it becomes effective.


As always, Sierra HR Partners is here to help you navigate the ever-changing landscape of COVID-19 precautions. Stay tuned for more information, and contact one of our Consultants with any questions you have.


OSHA Vaccine Mandate Struck Down by Supreme Court – What This Means for California Employers


OSHA Vaccine Mandate Struck Down by Supreme Court

What This Means for California Employers

by Doug Larsen


The OSHA Vaccine Mandate


The Secretary of Labor enacted a vaccine mandate covering almost all employers with at least 100 employees.  It requires workers to receive a COVID-19 vaccine and preempts state laws that differ.  The only exception is for those workers who obtain a medical test each week at their expense and on their own time and wear a mask at work.  Employees who do not comply must be removed from the workplace and employers can face fines from $13,653 to $136,532.


Limitations on OSHA Standards


OSHA’s Scope is Limited to the Workplace.  OSHA is tasked with ensuring occupational safety.  Standards enacted must be reasonably necessary or appropriate to provide safe or healthful employment.  Even the Solicitor General admitted that OSHA is limited to regulating dangers in the workplace.


Emergency Standards Can Be Enacted in Limited Circumstances.  Most standards enacted by OSHA or other agencies must follow a rigorous process that includes a notice and comment period.


There is, however, an exception for emergency temporary standards.  The process is not applicable and can take effect immediately if employees are exposed to grave danger and the emergency standard is necessary to protect employees from the danger.  The OSHA COVID-19 vaccine mandate took effect as an emergency temporary standard.  It also failed to make any distinctions based on industry or risk of exposure to COVID-19.


The Court Rejects the Vaccine Mandate


The Supreme Court concluded that the Occupational Health and Safety Act does not authorize this vaccine mandate.  While COVID-19 may be a risk in many workplaces, COVID-19 is not an occupational hazard in most workplaces.  COVID-19 spreads at home, school and public gatherings.  As such the risk of COVID-19 is no different from the day-to-day dangers that face everyone in daily life.  The fact that COVID-19, like the hazards of daily life, poses risks to persons at work does not authorize OSHA to exercise regulatory authority without clear congressional approval.


OSHA may, however, regulate occupation-specific risks related to COVID-19.  OSHA can regulate where the virus poses a special danger because of particular features of a certain job or workplace.  Examples of job duties or workplaces where regulation might be appropriate include researchers who work with the virus and crowded or cramped work environments.  But an indiscriminate approach takes on the character of a general public health measure rather than an occupational standard.  Compelling 84 million Americans to vaccinate simply because they work for employers with more than 100 employees is not an occupational standard.


Effect on California Employers


            The obvious affect of the Court’s ruling is that employers with 100 or more employees are not compelled, by federal law imposed by OSHA, to vaccinate their employees.  However, the Court’s ruling does not directly affect the orders issued by the California Department of Public Health or local Departments of Public Health.  Nor does the ruling affect Cal/OSHA’s regulatory powers, which includes a new emergency temporary standard that takes effect on January 15, 2022.


Do You Need More Information?


Do you need help with managing the ever-evolving COVID-19 laws?  Join us for a zoom conference on Thursday, January 27th at 9 am to discuss the Supreme Court’s ruling, and the many state orders and mandates affecting California workplaces.  Register at receptionist@flclaw.net.