Last week, California removed its temporary order requiring employees to wear masks indoors, and as of February 16, 2022, employers in most California counties reverted to their pre-Omicron existence where they had operated since June, 2021 under the Cal/OSHA ETS. Once again, fully vaccinated employees can go without masks and unvaccinated employees have to wear masks in the workplace. However, as Los Angeles County employers are well aware, the Los Angeles Department of Public Health (LADPH) had issued a Health Officer Order (HOO) last summer requiring LA County employers to require masks of all employees (and patrons) in the workplace. Indeed, in January, 2022 and in response to the Omicron surge, LADPH issued an HOO requiring LA County employers to supply their employees with N95 or comparable surgical masks if the employees worked in close contact with other employees or the public.
Consequently, it has come as an enormous relief to many businesses, as well as some mask-wearing, weary employees, that yesterday, February 23, 2022, LADPH finally issued a new HOO set to go into effect Friday, February 25, 2022, revising the indoor mask requirement. But before everyone rips off those masks this weekend, be sure to drill down on the details of this new HOO. This policy comes with a hitch that other counties do not impose.
We are attaching a copy of the FAQs and a chart, which accompanied the new HOO issued by LADPH. To summarize, the HOO talks about two options available for businesses who wish to allow their employees and customers to go maskless. However, only one option applies to the workplace. Simply put, in order to allow the “fully vaccinated” employees to go without a mask, one of two things must occur. Either (a) all employees need to be fully vaccinated (although fully vaccinated need NOT include a booster), OR, (b) the unvaccinated employees need to receive a negative COVID test every three days (paid for by the employer) AND must still wear a mask.
Bottom line: If unvaccinated employees do not get tested every three days, ALL EMPLOYEES (including fully vaccinated employees) must keep wearing masks in the workplace.
If the business has customers, under this option #1, in order for the full vaccinated employees to go maskless, customers would also have to be fully vaccinated or show proof of a negative COVID test as well.
There are a lot more specifics to this new HOO, for example, certain business establishments such as schools, healthcare settings, transportation hubs and some others are exempt from these new rules and must continue under the former HOO. We wanted to get this alert out to everyone with the most important highlights, and we urge all impacted employers to read the attached FAQs for more details. Of course, feel free to contact any one of us in the Employment Law Group if you have any questions. We anticipate that this new HOO may well bring up some new discussions about vaccination and accommodation policies. We are here to assist with all related questions.