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Revisions to Cal/OSHA’s COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards


The top half of a Roman-esque statue of a man wearing a medium blue face mask in front of a light blue background.

Cal/OSHA’s Board voted this month to adopt the revisions to the COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS).[i] These revisions went into effect immediately on June 17, 2021 thanks to an Executive Order signed by Governor Gavin Newsom. Here’s what those changes mean for employers, employees, and workplace procedures:

  • Employers are required to know employees’ vaccination statuses if they wish to loosen the restrictions of the 2020 ETS. Per the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), employers can require vaccinations* and can require proof of those vaccinations from employees.[ii]

  • These requirements are subject to reasonable accommodations related to disability or sincerely-held religious beliefs or practices.

  • Employers may not retaliate against employees for requesting a reasonable accommodation.

  • Vaccination status dictates where, when, and whether an employee must wear face coverings:

  • Fully vaccinated employees may be allowed to forego face coverings indoors.

  • Unvaccinated employees are required to wear face coverings, unless alone, actively eating or drinking, or if their job duties cannot safely accommodate their use.

  • Employees are allowed to wear face coverings if they want, regardless of vaccination status, and may not be retaliated against by their employers for doing such.

  • Employers must evaluate the workplace to ensure proper ventilation and sanitation.

  • Physical distancing and solid partition requirements have been lifted, but employers must still evaluate whether they should be implemented to reduce COVID-19 transmission.


Some important reminders from the 2020 ETS (effective November 30, 2020 – June 17, 2021), which are still applicable:

  • Employers are required to maintain and implement a COVID-19 Prevention Program, including a communication system and screening process for employees, procedures to investigate and respond to a COVID-19 case in the workplace, a system for keeping employee medical information confidential, and providing COVID-19 information and training to employees.

  • Employers are required to inform all employees on how to obtain COVID-19 testing and must offer testing to employees who were exposed during close contact at work or an outbreak at their workplace.

  • COVID-19 procedures and processes required by the 2020 ETS and the revised 2021 ETS must continue to be documented. Cal/OSHA has not stated a specific record-keeping time requirement (e.g., three years or through December 31, 2023), however they have said that any documentation of an employee’s vacation status should be “maintained for the length of time necessary to establish compliance” with the ETS.


Any changes implemented under the revised 2021 ETS will need to follow the notice/communication requirement under the 2020 ETS so employees remain informed of the employer’s workplace safety procedures.

[i] https://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/coronavirus/ETS.html. [ii] https://www.dfeh.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/sites/32/2020/03/DFEH-Employment-Information-on-COVID-19-FAQ_ENG.pdf.