Businesses will no longer be forced to have workers mask up, state agency rules

The state’s occupational safety board today approved new workplace rules that will eliminate the mask-wearing mandate and social distancing requirements for vaccinated workers, allowing employees to follow the same health guidance as the general public.

Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected to sign an executive order later today making the new rules effective immediately. Without this, the rules couldn’t go into effect any sooner than June 28.

Relaxed rules for the general public went into effect Tuesday.

Employers must document that workers who don’t wear masks indoors are fully vaccinated. But employers have the choice of requiring workers to show proof of vaccination or allowing employees to “self-attest” to their vaccination status, with the employer keeping a record of who self-attests.

Unvaccinated workers still must wear masks, which employers must make available upon request.

Thursday’s decision by the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board, or Cal/OSHA, came after weeks of back and forth and intense lobbying by industry groups. The four-hour hearing included nearly 1,000 participants.

The rules apply in almost every workplace setting, including restaurants, factories and retail.

Employers could also decide to require everyone to remain masked—vaccinated or not. And vaccinated employees will still be able to wear masks if they choose without facing retaliation.

Chris Hamrock, co-owner of East Long Beach hair salon Salon Wire, said he will keep up stricter COVID-19 safety requirements for at least another month.

“We want to follow the science, which we recognize, but we also think there’s a psychological aspect to it,” Hamrock said. “We just thought it was psychologically easier for people to adjust, rather than just rip the Band-Aid off.”

Customers at Salon Wire will be asked to wear masks for at least another two weeks and stylists will likely continue to wear them for another month, Hamrock said.

Michael Dene, owner of Michael’s on Naples and Michael’s Pizzeria, said he is planning to collect employee feedback to help develop a policy for his restaurants.

“We’re trying very hard to ensure safety and at the same time give them the freedom to now get back to normal order,” he said. All of his employees are fully vaccinated, Dene said, and he is hoping to settle on new rules, in accordance with state and local guidelines, this week.

Long Beach has not issued any local rules for workplaces yet and employers should refer to Cal/OSHA mandates, said spokesperson Jennifer Rice Epstein.

 

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Alena Maschke writes about all things business and beyond for the Long Beach Business Journal/Long Beach Post. Born and raised in Germany, she first fell in love with California during an exchange year at UCLA. After receiving her master's degree in journalism from Columbia University in 2017, she returned to the Golden State with an appetite for great stories, pupusas and the occasional Michelada.
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