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New Cal/OSHA COVID-19 Regulations Take Effect Immediately

On June 17, 2021, at the end of yet another chaotic day in administrative rulemaking, California’s new COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) finally became effective. The ETS bring substantial changes to the COVID-19 regulatory requirements with which employers have struggled since California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) initial ETS took effect almost 7 months ago, on November 30, 2020.

The Process

Earlier on June 17, 2021, Cal/OSHA’s Occupational Safety & Health Standards Board of approved Cal/OSHA’s most recent COVID-19 revisions with 6 aye votes and 1 no vote. Board Member Laura Stock was the lone vote against the regulation update.

The Standards Board again conducted its meeting via an online platform with more than 900 people attending. Both Eric Berg and Corey Friedman from Cal/OSHA advised the Board regarding the proposed regulation, face coverings, N95s, vaccination documentation, and other issues. Public comment was limited to two hours with each speaker limited to two minutes.

Although ordinarily the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) may take up to 10 calendar days to review emergency regulations that agencies submit to them, the governor issued Executive Order N-09-21 and suspended the 10-day requirement. The OAL filed the regulations with the secretary of state, who posted them, making them effective immediately.

COVID-19 Regulation Highlights

Here are some of the highlights of California’s new COVID-19 ETS. The ETS:

  • requires employers to document that employees are fully-vaccinated and can accept verbal self-attestation;

  • eliminates physical Distancing requirements;

  • requires unvaccinated workers to wear face masks;

  • requires employers to provide N95 respirators to employees who request them;

  • updates notice requirements for close contacts;

  • restructures exclusion-from-work requirements and return-to-work processes;

  • details new California COVID-19 protection program requirements;

  • imposes new training obligations for COVD-19 vaccination and testing access and policies, leave policies, and respirator policies;

  • includes new outbreak rules; and

  • adjusts employer-provided housing and employer transportation requirements.

© 2023, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., All Rights Reserved.National Law Review, Volume XI, Number 169

About this Author

Karen Tynan, employment lawyer, Ogletree Deakins
Of Counsel

Karen Tynan is an of counsel attorney in the Sacramento office of Ogletree Deakins. Karen is originally from the state of Georgia, and after graduating with honors from the United States Merchant Marine Academy, she worked for Chevron Shipping Company for ten years – sailing as a ship's officer on oil tankers rising to the rank of Chief Officer with her Unlimited Master’s License as well as San Francisco Bay pilotage endorsement.  Karen was the highest ranking woman in the Chevron fleet when she left her seafaring life.  This maritime and petroleum experience is unique among employment...

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Kevin Bland, Ogletree Deakins Law Firm, Workplace Safety and Construction Attorney

Kevin D. Bland joined Ogletree Deakins law firm in their Orange County office in 2011. Mr. Bland provides a wealth of experience in Health and Safety.  Before he began his legal career, Mr. Bland had nearly 20 years of construction, safety, and business experience.  In 2000, he launched his legal career after graduating cum laude from Whittier School of Law. Mr. Bland holds a Contractor’s “A” License and his practice focuses primarily on safety, risk management, Cal-OSHA regulatory rulemaking, and Cal/OSHA citation appeals. He counsels and represents various...

Charles Thompson, Ogletree Deakins Law Firm, Employment Law Attorney

Charles L. Thompson IV counsels and defends employers in wrongful termination, discrimination, and other employment-related matters.  These areas include trade secrets and unfair competition, California and federal leaves of absence, ADA compliance, and wage and hour compliance.

Charles also represents employers in traditional labor law matters. He advises and represents employers in collective bargaining. He also represents employers in matters before the National Labor Relations Board, including in unfair labor practice and representation...