Can California Businesses Require Masks? A Comprehensive Guide

No person can be prevented from wearing a mask as a condition of participating in an activity or entering a business. However, companies have the right to demand stricter mask policies, but they are not allowed to restrict the use of masks by their staff, customers or visitors. The State Health Officer Order has recently changed, and masks are no longer required for unvaccinated individuals in public settings and closed businesses. However, all people, regardless of vaccination status, are strongly encouraged to wear masks in closed public settings.

A company can choose to require all customers to wear masks. It's important to note that several counties are not going to relax their local mask mandates until certain metrics are met. This means that where a person can go without a mask will be different from county to county. Two counties that say they won't follow the state's example are Santa Clara County (based on the metric system) and Los Angeles County (you may relax outdoors, but don't say anything indoors).

The new change only applies to fully vaccinated employees. Unvaccinated employees will need to continue wearing masks indoors, and employers will need to continue to enforce that measure. For some employers, a desire to avoid drawing attention to unvaccinated employees may drive political decisions and postpone any updates to the company's mask wearing requirements for now. For an employee to be considered fully vaccinated and therefore able to go without a mask indoors, the employer must have documented the employee's vaccination status; from now on, “getting fully vaccinated does not include booster shots, but that may be necessary over time. The self-certification assignments mentioned in the updated state mandate do not apply to employees and employers in the work environment. California OSHA linked some (but not all) of its face covering requirements to changes in CDPH regulations and recommendations.

This means that employers will also need to monitor changes in CDPH regulation. Cal OSHA 3205, 3205.1, 3205.2, 3205.3 and 3205.4 (the temporary emergency standard) are still in effect and, although they allow changes in conjunction with the CDPH changes, there are still elements within the ETS mentioned outside of the CDPH face covering guidelines that will presumably continue to be required and enforced. In conclusion, companies have the right to demand stricter mask policies for their customers and visitors, but they cannot restrict the use of masks by their staff or visitors. It is important for employers to document their employee's vaccination status so that they can determine who is eligible for going without a mask indoors. Employers should also monitor changes in CDPH regulations so that they can ensure compliance with all applicable laws.

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