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OSHA Tells Employers to Follow CDC Mask Guidance

In a sign that the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact is waning and vaccines are having an impact on the spread of the virus, on May 13, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that fully vaccinated people may resume their pre-COVID-19 pandemic activities without wearing a mask, except where required by, among other things, federal or state law and local business and workplace guidance and rules.

Though welcome news for many, the CDC’s announcement left employers wondering whether they still needed to, or should, require fully vaccinated employees to wear face coverings consistent with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Jan. 29, 2021, COVID-19 non-mandatory guidance, titled “Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace.”

On May 17, OSHA answered the question: “No.” On its website, the workplace safety agency instructed employers to follow the CDC’s recent mask guidance for employees who are fully vaccinated. OSHA’s announcement, however, does not apply to activities in the health care industry (see CDC announcement for some additional exceptions). OSHA plans to update its non-mandatory COVID-19 safety and health guidance based on the CDC’s new mask guidance.

Although OSHA has given employers the “green light” to permit fully vaccinated employees to stop wearing face coverings in the workplace, employers must still adhere to state and local mask mandates. To date, not all states and localities have withdrawn their mask mandates; some states, like California, Virginia, Michigan, and Oregon, have workplace safety regulations related to COVID-19 that specifically require employees to wear face coverings in the workplace without regard to whether an employee is fully vaccinated. As such, employers should review state and local mandates and regulations when considering whether to roll back their employee face-covering requirement.

©2023 Greenberg Traurig, LLP. All rights reserved. National Law Review, Volume XI, Number 138

About this Author

Michael Taylor, Greenberg Traurig Law Firm, Northern Virginia, Labor and Employment, Energy Law Attorney

Michael T. Taylor is Chair of the firm's Labor & Employment Practice's OSHA group. He focuses his practice on the representation of employers in a variety of industries regarding Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) matters across the country. Over the last fourteen years, Michael has defended scores of employers during enforcement litigation, many of which have involved a significant injury, fatality, or catastrophic event in the workplace. Michael also provides OSHA compliance counseling, OSHA inspection counseling, OSHA whistleblower representation, and OSHA due...

Michael G. Murphy, Greenberg Traurig Law Firm, Orlando, Labor and Employment, Real Estate and Construction Law Attorney

Michael Murphy is a board certified construction lawyer who focuses his practice on defects, design claims, delay, disruption and acceleration claims, lien foreclosures, and arbitration on behalf of owners, developers, contractors and subcontractors. He reviews and draft construction contacts. He advises clients in the construction industry on OSHA compliance issues, workplace accident and fatality investigations, and contest of citations through trial. He also practices in the area of commercial litigation.

Michael has a Bachelor of Science in...

Adam Roseman, Greenberg Traurig Law Firm, Philadelphia, Labor and Employment Attorney

Adam Roseman focuses his practice on federal and state labor and employment counseling and litigation arising under Title VII, the Fair Labor Standards Act, whistleblower retaliation under Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and restrictive covenants.


  • FLSA

  • Title VII

  • Occupational Safety and Health Act

  • Whistleblower retaliation under Sarbanes-Oxley and...