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On May 19, 2021, the eve of a vote by the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board to adopt proposed substantial changes to the existing Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS), Eric Berg, Deputy Chief of Cal/OSHA, asked that the Standards Board not vote the next day, on May 20, 2021, to adopt Cal/OSHA’s proposed ETS revisions.

Berg asked that the Standards Board allow Cal/OSHA to present a new proposal at a future meeting with a targeted effective date of June 15, 2021, for its new proposal.

May 13, 2021, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guidance to allow fully-vaccinated individuals to forego masks in some situations.

Cal/OSHA also explained that four days after the CDC’s announcement, on May 17, 2021, the California Health & Human Services Agency secretary had expressed that California intended to implement the CDC’s masking guidance on June 15, 2021. This is the same date that Governor Newsom announced as the state’s goal for reopening California’s economy fully.

However, labor officials and worker advocates are pushing back against adoption of the loosened masking guidance for fully vaccinated individuals.

Cal/OSHA had published the draft ETS proposal on May 7, 2021. Labor law lawyers say that these new developments appear to be the reason that Cal/OSHA asked that the Standards Board not adopt the draft ETS proposal on May 20, 2021. Given the recent CDC guidance and California’s impending reopening, Cal/OSHA appears to be reconsidering the proposal it wishes to present to the Standards Board.

For now, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) recommends that while we wait for new proposed revisions to Cal/OSHA’s ETS, it is important to remember that California employers are still under the current safety standard – which makes no accommodation for fully vaccinated employees when it comes to masking.

The only loosened restriction that California employers may currently follow is the updated guidance easing quarantine restrictions for fully vaccinated asymptomatic employees in non-healthcare workplaces.