California Issues Updated Vaccination Verification and Testing Requirements and Recommendations

Note: On July 28, 2021, the CDPH issued new guidance recommending that all Californians, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks while indoors. The guidance also adds Adult and Senior Care Facilities to the list of settings where all individuals must wear masks indoors. Access the updated Guidance here.

On July 26, 2021, Governor Newsom announced that all California state workers and certain workers in health care and high risk congregate settings will be required to either show proof of vaccination or be tested regularly for COVID-19. The announcement encourages all local governments and businesses to adopt similar measures. The new vaccination verification and other COVID-19 prevention requirements for health care and other high-risk settings are codified in an Order released by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). Learn more about these new mandates and recommendations below.

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Which Workers are Affected?

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The CDPH’s July 26, 2021 Order specifically applies to workers in certain health care, long-term care, and other high-risk congregate facilities, which include:

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Category A. Acute Health Care and Long-Term Care Settings:

  • General Acute Care Hospitals
  • Skilled Nursing Facilities (including Subacute Facilities)
  • Intermediate Care Facilities

Category B. High-Risk Congregate Settings: 

Category C. Other Health Care Settings:

  • Acute Psychiatric Hospitals
  • Adult Day Health Care Centers
  • Adult Day Programs Licensed by the California Department of Social Services
  • Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) and PACE Centers
  • Ambulatory Surgery Centers
  • Chemical Dependency Recovery Hospitals
  • Clinics & Doctor Offices (including behavioral health, surgical)
  • Congregate Living Health Facilities
  • Dental Offices
  • Dialysis Centers
  • Hospice Facilities
  • Pediatric Day Health and Respite Care Facilities
  • Residential Substance Use Treatment and Mental Health Treatment Facilities

Vaccination Verification, Masking, and Testing Requirements

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Vaccination Verification

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Eligible facilities will be required to create and execute a plan to track and verify the vaccination status of all workers pursuant to the CDPH Guidance for Vaccine Records Guidelines & Standards. Vaccination verification records collected must be made available, upon request, to the local health jurisdiction for COVID-19 investigation purposes. Workers who are not fully vaccinated, for whom vaccine status is unknown, or documentation is not provided, are considered unvaccinated.

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Workers are considered “fully vaccinated” against COVID-19 two weeks after they have received either the second dose in a 2-dose series or a single-dose vaccine with emergency use authorization or approval from the FDA, or authorization from the World Health Organization (WHO).

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Masking/Respirators

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These facilities must still adhere to the current CDPH Masking Guidance, as well as Cal/OSHA’s Aerosol Transmissible Diseases (ATD) Standard and Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) for COVID-19 Prevention. The Order further requires facilities to provide either respirators or FDA-cleared surgical masks to unvaccinated and incompletely vaccinated workers as follows:

  • Category A: All unvaccinated and incompletely vaccinated workers who work indoors where (1) care is provided to patients or residents, or (2) to which patients or residents have access for any purpose must be provided respirators, and are strongly encouraged to wear them. These facilities must provide the respirators at no cost, and workers must be instructed on how to properly wear the respirators and how to perform a seal check according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Categories B and C: Where Title 8 of the California Code of Regulations does not require the use of respirators, facilities are required to provide all unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated workers with FDA-cleared surgical masks. Workers are required to wear FDA-cleared surgical masks in indoor settings anywhere they are working with another person.

Testing

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Testing requirements vary slightly for workers in different healthcare and high-risk congregate facilities. While all asymptomatic unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated workers are required to undergo diagnostic screening testing, workers in Category A facilities must be tested at least twice weekly and workers in Categories B and C must be tested at least once weekly. Workers may choose either antigen or molecular tests to satisfy this requirement, but any PCR (molecular) or antigen test used must either have Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA or be operating per the Laboratory Developed Test requirements by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

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Affected facilities must report applicable contact tracing and test results to the appropriate local public health department. The CDPH recommends that facilities with workers required to undergo workplace diagnostic screening testing create plans for tracking test results and conducting workplace contact tracing to fulfill this requirement.

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When Do These Requirements Take Effect?

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This order will take effect on August 9, 2021, and eligible facilities must be in full compliance with the Order by August 23, 2021.

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Other State and Federal COVD-19 Prevention Recommendations

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Newsom’s press release further encourages local governments and businesses across the state to adopt similar COVID-19 prevention requirements. This announcement comes as local governments, such as Los Angeles County, along with national organizations, such as the CDC, reinstate masking requirements and recommendations, regardless of vaccination status. On July 27, 2021 the CDC issued updated recommendations advising people in areas with substantial or high transmission, such as Los Angeles County, to wears masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status.

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These recommendations come as California experiences the fastest increase of COVID-19 cases during the entire pandemic, which is, in part, due to the spread of the Delta variant. California employers should prepare to adapt to further vaccination, testing, and masking recommendations and requirements in the coming months.

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Resources for California Employers

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View the CDPH’s July 26, 2021 Order here.

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View Governor Newsom’s July 26, 2021 press release here.

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Learn more about Los Angeles County’s renewed masking requirements here.

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View the CDC’s July 27, 2021 Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People here.

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If you have questions regarding the application of any of the updated COVID-19 prevention recommendations and mandates to your business, please contact one of the following attorneys in The Maloney Firm’s Employment Law Department: Patrick MaloneyLisa Von EschenSamantha Botros, or Nicholas Grether.

Best Practices Advice From The Bully Pulpit: Court Of Appeal Uses Published Decision To Shame Lawyer When No Legal Malpractice Claim Arose From Bad Conduct

By Carl I. S. Mueller, Esq., The Maloney Firm, APC

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In White v. Molfetta (2021) 64 Cal.App.5th 628, a California Court of Appeal decision filed on May 24, 2021, the court made the unusual choice to publicly and explicitly shame an attorney, writing that the court “cannot condone such laxity on the part of a lawyer toward his client,” and stating the case was “publish [ed] in the hope the embarrassment we [the court] feel about the case can lead to improvement.” While the law within the decision is unremarkable, the purpose of the decision should serve as a reminder to all practitioners of the duties they owe to their clients.

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The plaintiff, White, was convicted of multiple crimes, leading to his incarceration. The defendant, Molfetta, was appointed to White’s defense in the underlying criminal trial. After White’s conviction, Molfetta filed a notice of appeal. Another attorney, Morse, represented White on appeal. White’s appeals, all the way through the California Supreme Court, were unsuccessful. 

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White then wanted to begin a federal habeas corpus petition, and as such wrote to Molfetta to obtain his client file. Molfetta did not respond. White subsequently complained to the Cal. State Bar that Molfetta had failed to turn over the client file, but Molfetta again failed to produce the client file. White then asked the criminal court to order the client file produced, but to no avail. White also proceeded to filing the civil action underlying the appeal, but Molfetta still failed to provide the client file.

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Ultimately, after reneging on his promises and ignoring court orders to hand over White’s client file, Molfetta delivered the client file more than a year after first being asked. However, even though he now had the client file, White failed to timely file his habeas corpus petition.

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Based on these facts, the Court dismissed White’s civil case against Molfetta for a few simple reasons:

  • a) White’s state court appeals were not affected by Molfetta’s failure to turn over the client file, because neither White or Morse had actually made an explicit request to White to turn over the client file until the state court of appeals process concluded; and
  • b) White’s failure to timely pursue his habeas corpus petition in Federal Court meant that Molfetta’s delay in turning over the client file did not cause any harm to White.

In short, there was no liability for Molfetta, despite his clear dereliction in duty to his client, because there was no harm actually caused by his bad acts. But, the court wanted to take the opportunity to impart the following wisdom on attorneys:

We are a profession. Like doctors and ministers and scientists, we have an obligation to perform to the absolute best of our abilities regardless of our own circumstances or those of our client. We owe more than was provided here. But on the facts of this case, the law does not permit a recovery.

However, a better lesson may be that anytime an attorney comes into a case, it is a best practice to send a clear and explicit request to predecessor counsel for the entirety of the client file, pursuant to Cal. Rules of Professional Conduct 1.16. Something successor counsel, Morse, simply did not do.

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About the Author:

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Carl Mueller is a business litigation attorney that represents clients in all phases of civil litigation. Mr. Mueller’s practice has a focus on attorney-client disputes of all kinds. If you have questions regarding this article contact Carl Mueller at cmueller@maloneyfirm.com.

Calculating the Premium Wage for Missed Meal/Rest Breaks

By Nicholas Grether, Esq., The Maloney Firm, APC

When an employer does not provide an employee a proper meal or rest break, California law requires that “the employer shall pay the employee one additional hour of pay at the employee’s regular rate of compensation.” Labor Code section 226.7(c). This additional hour is known as a premium wage, but how does an employer calculate the regular rate of compensation? On July 15, 2021, the California Supreme Court in Ferra v. Loews Hollywood Hotel, S259172, explained that the term “regular rate of compensation” for a premium wage has the same meaning as “regular rate of pay” for calculating overtime. What does this mean for employers?

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The regular rate of pay/compensation includes hourly earnings, salary, piecework earnings, flat sum bonuses, commissions, and any other non-discretionary income. As an example, if an employer gives a $100 bonus for working on the weekend, that has to be included in the regular rate, because that bonus would be additional wages earned by the employee for their work. These calculations would have to be made for each workweek.

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If in the example above, let’s assume the employee works 8 hours per day, 5 days a week, and earns $15.00 per hour. The employee would earn $700 in a given week ($15 x 8 hours per day x 5 days per week = $600 + $100 nondiscretionary bonus). Divide $700 by the number of hours worked in the workweek (40), which results in $17.50 per hour as the regular rate of pay or compensation. If during the workweek, the employee missed one meal break and had one rest break cut shorter than 10 minutes, the employee would be entitled 2 premium wage payments at $17.50 each at the regular rate, not the employee’s base rate of $15.00.  

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What Can Employers Do?

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Given that this method of calculating the premium wage can only increase potential exposure for meal and rest break violations, employers should ensure they have policies and procedures in place to prevent violations and when appropriate pay the appropriate meal or break premium to the employee. The Court found that this ruling should apply retroactively, so employers should audit their payments of premium wages to determine if there is potential liability for underpayment. Of course, providing proper meal and rest breaks to employees ensures that they are properly rested and serves as the best defense to such claims. Employer should also examine their policies and practices for making additional payments beyond base wages to hourly employees. Clear communication about which payments are discretionary or nondiscretionary will assist in calculating premium wages properly and defending against any lawsuits.

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About the Author:

Nicholas Grether is an employment attorney in the Employment Law Department at The Maloney Firm, APC. If you have questions regarding this article, contact Nicholas Grether at ngrether@maloneyfirm.com.

Los Angeles County Renews Mask Mandate

On Friday, July 16, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) renewed the county’s mask mandate, requiring all persons, regardless of vaccination status, to wear face masks while indoors. Several other counties across California have issued ordinances “strongly recommending” masking in public indoor spaces, and may be considering renewing their respective mask mandates.

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Los Angeles County Mask Mandate

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Since California’s June 15 reopening, community transmission of COVID-19 within LA County has risen significantly, more than quadrupling in the past month. In order to curb this trend, Public Health has issued an order requiring all persons, regardless of vaccination status, to wear face masks while in all indoor public settings and businesses.

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Individuals, businesses, venue operators, and other hosts of public indoor settings must now:

  • Require all patrons and employees, regardless of their vaccination status, to wear masks in all indoor settings (for example: offices, retail, restaurants, theaters, family entertainment centers, and meetings), and
  • Post clearly visible and easy to read signage at all entry points for indoor and outdoor settings to communicate the masking requirements for patrons.

Within workplaces, certain employees may be exempt from wearing a mask when performing specific tasks which cannot feasibly be performed while wearing a mask. Learn more about this limited exemption here.

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LA County’s mask mandate overrides Cal/OSHA’s recently relaxed masking guidance. Therefore, employers, where applicable, should update their COVID-19 prevention policies to adjust to LA County’s new guidance.

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“Strong” Masking Recommendations in Other California Counties

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Other local jurisdictions, such as Alameda, Contra Costa, Fresno, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Sonoma, Sacramento, and Yolo counties, and the City of Berkeley, have strongly urged businesses to adopt universal masking requirements indoors, and may reimplement mask mandates in the coming weeks. Governments across the State will be closely tracking the Delta variant and sharp rise in COVID-19 cases to potentially adjust their guidance.

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Resources for California Employers

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In spite of relaxed statewide regulations, California employers should be prepared to make adjustments to their COVID-19 prevention strategies, and track and follow more restrictive requirements imposed by local regulatory bodies and governments.

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Find the full text of Los Angeles County’s renewed mask mandate here.

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If you have questions regarding the application of LA County’s mask mandate to your business, please contact one of the following attorneys in The Maloney Firm’s Employment Law Department: Patrick MaloneyLisa Von EschenSamantha Botros, or Nicholas Grether.

Cal/OSHA’s Revised COVID-19 ETS is Approved, Bringing Relaxed Masking and Physical Distancing Requirements

Update: Cal/OSHA revised their Model COVID-19 Prevention Program (CPP) on June 29, 2021 to reflect the changes in the newly revised COVID-19 ETS. Access the newly revised Model CPP here.

On June 17, 2021, Cal/OSHA’s Occupational Safety & Health Standards Board (OSHSB) approved significant revisions to the Emergency Temporary Standards for COVID-19 Prevention (ETS), which include relaxed masking and physical distancing requirements. These revisions took effect immediately upon filing with California’s Secretary of State, per an executive order from Governor Newsom.

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Cal/OSHA has also released a set of FAQs accompanying the revised ETS, which clarify how employers may document employees’ vaccination status and comply with voluntary respirator requirements, amongst other concerns. Learn more about the most significant revisions to the ETS and ETS FAQs below.

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Background

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As a reminder, California Department of Public Health (CDPH) guidance regarding California’s June 15 “reopening” primarily applies to customers and the general public; California employers and employees are largely subject to a different set of COVID-19-related health and safety standards in the workplace, which are drafted by Cal/OSHA and codified in its ETS.

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Earlier this month, OSHSB voted to withdraw updates to the COVID-19 ETS passed on June 3, 2021 in order to bring Cal/OSHA’s guidance in line with CDC and CDPH recommendations. The revised ETS aligns with CDPH recommendations for face coverings and social distancing, and implements enhanced COVID-19-prevention protocols in the workplace.

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Under normal circumstances, the revised ETS would have taken effect on or before June 28, after approval from California’s Office of Administrative Law. However, Governor Newsom signed an executive order shortly after OSHSB’s June 17 meeting making these revisions effective immediately, upon filing with California’s Secretary of State.

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Most Significant Revisions to the ETS

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The newly revised ETS holds many exemptions for “fully vaccinated” workers. Workers are considered fully vaccinated under Cal/OSHA’s ETS when their employer has documented that the person has received, at least 14 days prior, either the second dose in a two dose COVID-19 vaccine series or a single-dose COVID-19 vaccine. In a change from the June 3 revisions, these vaccines must be either FDA approved, have emergency use authorization from the FDA, or, for persons fully vaccinated outside of the United States, be listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization (WHO).

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The FAQs that accompany the revised ETS offer several suggestions detailing how employers may document employees’ vaccination status, including:

  • Employees provide proof of vaccination (vaccine card, image of vaccine card, or health care document showing vaccination status) and the employer maintains a copy,
  • Employees provide proof of vaccination. The employer maintains a record of the employees who presented proof, but not the vaccine record itself, or
  • Employees self-attest to vaccination status and the employer maintains a record of who self-attests.

If an employee declines to submit proof of vaccination during an employer’s documentation process, the employer must treat the employee as unvaccinated and must not take disciplinary or discriminatory action against the employee. The FAQs further specify that employers are not prohibited by Cal/OSHA from requiring all employees to wear face coverings in lieu of implementing a documentation process.

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Face Coverings/Masking

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Cal/OSHA has eliminated all face covering requirements outdoors, except in certain outbreak settings. However, employers should train workers on CDPH recommendations for outdoor use of face coverings, and should be mindful of certain settings in which the CDPH requires face coverings regardless of vaccination status, such as public transit, childcare, and healthcare settings.

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Fully Vaccinated Employees: Under the updated regulations, fully vaccinated employees are no longer required by Cal/OSHA to wear face coverings in the workplace, regardless of other individuals’ vaccination status or whether the workplace is indoors or outdoors. However, fully vaccinated employees must be allowed to continue wearing face coverings in the workplace without fear of retaliation.

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Unvaccinated Employees: Employees who are not fully vaccinated must be provided with and properly wear face coverings when they are working indoors or in a vehicle, with the following exceptions:

  • (1) When an employee is alone in a room or vehicle,
  • (2) While eating or drinking at the workplace, provided six feet of physical distancing and maximum feasible ventilation with outdoor air,
  • (3) Employees wearing respirators required by the employer and used in compliance with Cal/OSHA’s respirator standard,
  • (4) Employees who cannot wear face coverings due to a medical or mental health condition or disability, or who are hearing-impaired or communicating with a hearing-impaired person, and
  • (5) Specific tasks which cannot feasibly be performed with a face covering (with some additional caveats).

Employees exempt from face covering requirements due to medical conditions, mental health conditions, or disabilities are still required to wear effective, non-restrictive alternatives, such as face shields with drapes at the bottom, if their condition permits it. Aside from fully vaccinated employees, any employee not wearing a face covering due to the exemptions listed above in (4) and (5) and not wearing a non-restrictive alternative, when applicable, must maintain six feet of physical distancing unless the unmasked employee is tested at least weekly for COVID-19 during paid time and no cost to the employee.

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Even when face coverings are not required, employers must provide face coverings to their employees upon request, at no cost to the employee, regardless of vaccination status.

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Acceptable face coverings include surgical masks, medical procedure masks, respirators worn voluntarily, or tightly woven fabric or non-woven material of at least two layers, and do not include scarves, ski masks, balaclavas, bandanas, turtlenecks, collars, or single layers of fabric. Face coverings must not have visible holes or openings and must cover the nose and mouth.

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Respirators

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In a shift from the June 3 revisions, Cal/OSHA will require employers to provide respirators for voluntary use (instead of another acceptable face covering) to unvaccinated employees who are working indoors or in vehicles with more than one person upon the employees’ request. Whenever an employer makes respirators for voluntary use available, either at an unvaccinated employee’s request or in certain outbreak settings, employers must encourage their use, ensure that employees are provided with a respirator of the correct size, and provide basic instruction on their proper use. This provision took effect immediately upon the revised ETS’s effective date.

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In its FAQs, Cal/OSHA has provided further guidance on how employers may provide respirators “upon request.” Cal/OSHA suggests that employers may “initially stock respirators and offer them to employees, or poll workers to determine which employees wish to be provided a respirator before obtaining them.” After an employer has determined that it has employees who wish to wear respirators, the employer should maintain a supply of respirators of the correct size and type to fulfill “reasonably foreseeable requests” upon demand. Employers may also permit employees to select and purchase their own respirators if the employer reimburses the employee in a timely manner. Employers are under a continuing obligation to provide requested respirators to unvaccinated employees “as soon as possible.”

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For more information on how to purchase and when to replace respirators, navigate to the “Respirators” section in the ETS FAQs.

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Physical Distancing

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Most physical distancing requirements have been eliminated immediately upon the ETS’s effective date, in line with CDPH Guidance. However, employers may need to reinstitute physical distancing protocols when there is a qualifying “outbreak” in the workplace.

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Notice and Training Requirements

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The ETS currently requires employers to provide employees with written notice when employees at the worksite may have been exposed to COVID-19. The updated ETS also requires employers to provide verbal notice in a language understandable by the employee when the employer should reasonably know that an employee either has not received the written notice or has limited literacy in the language used in the notice.

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Employers must also provide training to their employees detailing their COVID-19 policy; their policy for providing respirators; when respirators are provided for voluntary use, how to properly wear respirators; face covering requirements; and other related topics.

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Testing

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Employers are generally no longer required to make COVID-19 testing available to employees who are asymptomatic and either fully vaccinated or naturally immune (essentially, had COVID-19 within the last 90 days, and have returned to work pursuant to Cal/OSHA’s requirements). The FAQs clarify that employers are required to offer COVID-19 testing at no cost to the employee during paid time to:

  • Symptomatic, unvaccinated employees, regardless of whether there is a known exposure,
  • Unvaccinated employees after an exposure,
  • Vaccinated employees after an exposure if they develop symptoms,
  • Unvaccinated employees in an outbreak, and
  • All employees in a major outbreak.

Exclusion from the Workplace

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The ETS requires employers, in many circumstances, to exclude COVID-19 cases and employees who had a close contact with a COVID-19 case from the workplace. Employees are exempt from this exclusion requirement if they are either fully vaccinated before the close contact and do not develop COVID-19 symptoms, or naturally immune.

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Employers should note that exclusion pay is subject to existing wage payment obligations, and must be paid at the employee’s regular rate of pay no later than the regular pay day for the pay period(s) in which the employee is excluded. Cal/OSHA emphasizes that unpaid exclusion wages are subject to enforcement.

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Ventilation Systems

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Employers are now required to evaluate ventilation systems in the workplace to maximize outdoor air and increase filtration efficiency, and evaluate the potential need for additional air cleaning systems.

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Revised Definitions

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Close Contact

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“Close contact,” for the purposes of the revised ETS, is defined as being within six feet of a COVID-19 case for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or greater in any 24-hour period within or overlapping with the “high-risk exposure period” of the COVID-19 case, regardless of the use of face coverings. Employees have not had a close contact if they wore a respirator required by the employer and used in compliance with Cal/OSHA’s respirator standard, whenever they were within six feet of the COVID-19 case during the high-risk exposure period.

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Cal/OSHA specifies the conditions under which employees may return to work, including after a “close contact” with COVID-19, on page 13 of the revised ETS.

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Exposed Groups

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The newly revised ETS exchanges the term “exposed workplace” for “exposed group,” which is defined as:

“All employees at a work location, working area, or a common area at work, where an employee COVID-19 case was present at any time during the high-risk exposure period. A common area at work includes bathrooms, walkways, hallways, aisles, break or eating areas, and waiting areas.”

Exposed groups may include the employees of more than one employer. The following situations are exempt from this definition:

  • For the purpose of determining the exposed group, a place where persons momentarily pass through while everyone is wearing face coverings, without congregating, is not a work location, working area, or a common area at work.
  • If the COVID-19 case was part of a distinct group of employees who are not present at the workplace at the same time as other employees, for instance a work crew or shift that does not overlap with another work crew or shift, only employees within that distinct group are part of the exposed group.
  • If the COVID-19 case visited a work location, working area, or a common area at work for less than 15 minutes during the high-risk exposure period, and the COVID-19 case was wearing a face covering during the entire visit, other people at the work location, working area, or common area are not part of the exposed group.

Outbreaks

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Outbreaks occur in the workplace when three or more employee COVID-19 cases within an “exposed group,” as defined above, visited the workplace during their high-risk exposure period at any time during a 14-day period.

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During outbreaks, all employees must wear face coverings indoors and outdoors when six-feet physical distancing cannot be maintained, regardless of vaccination status. Employers are required to evaluate whether it is necessary to implement physical distancing and barriers during an outbreak.

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“Major COVID-19 outbreaks,” which occur when 20 or more employee COVID-19 cases in an exposed group visit the workplace during their high-risk exposure period within a 30 day period, are subject to more stringent testing, physical distancing, and other requirements, as discussed on page 18 of the revised ETS.

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Resources for California Employers

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As most local governments (such as Los Angeles County) have rescinded most of their industry-specific COVID-19 prevention protocols, in line with California’s Beyond the Blueprint framework, California employers should primarily monitor Cal/OSHA’s ETS and ETS FAQs for continuing COVID-19-related guidance.

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View the full text of the revised ETS, which went into effect on June 17, 2021, here.

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View the ETS’s accompanying FAQs here.

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View Cal/OSHAs Respiratory Protection Standard (Cal. Code. Regs., tit. 8, section 5144) here.

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If you have questions regarding the application of Cal/OSHA’s updated ETS to your business, please contact one of the following attorneys in The Maloney Firm’s Employment Law Department: Patrick MaloneyLisa Von EschenSamantha Botros, or Nicholas Grether.

Cal/OSHA Withdraws June 3 Updates to COVID-19 ETS; Revisions Expected June 17

On June 9, 2021, Cal/OSHA’s Occupational Safety & Health Standards Board (OSHSB) voted to withdraw the revisions approved on June 3rd to the COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS). The board will convene on June 17, 2021 to review a new draft of the ETS, which is expected to bring Cal/OSHA’s guidance in line with recommendations from the CDC and CDPH.

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Significantly, this updated guidance will likely allow fully vaccinated workers to refrain from masking in both indoor and outdoor workplaces. If OSHSB approves Cal/OSHA’s revisions on June 17, the newly revised ETS could go into effect on June 28, 2021, after review from California’s Office of Administrative Law (OAL).

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In the meantime, California employers must still conform with the current version of the ETS. Employers may also be subject to stricter requirements imposed by other regulatory bodies and/or local governments (such as Los Angeles County).

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Resources for California Employers

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Find out more about the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) recommendations here.

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Find CDPH’s guidance for the use of face coverings, updated June 9, 2021, here.

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If you have questions regarding the application of Cal/OSHA’s ETS to your business, please contact one of the following attorneys in The Maloney Firm’s Employment Law Department: Patrick MaloneyLisa Von EschenSamantha Botros, or Nicholas Grether.

Maloney Firm attorneys Gregory Smith and Carl Mueller Selected to Super Lawyers’ 2021 Rising Stars List

We are proud to announce the selection of Maloney Firm attorneys Gregory Smith and Carl Mueller to Super Lawyers’ 2021 Southern California Rising Stars list. Carl has now earned his spot on the Rising Stars list for two years in a row. Greg has been selected to this list for the past six years, and has once again earned the further distinction of being named to the Up-and-Coming 100, an elite sub-list. 

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Firm attorneys Patrick Maloney and Lisa Von Eschen have also consistently been recognized by Southern California Super Lawyers.

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Super Lawyers, a Thomson Reuters business, is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The annual selections are made using a patented multiphase process that includes a statewide survey of lawyers, an independent research evaluation of candidates, and peer reviews by practice area. The result is a credible, comprehensive and diverse listing of exceptional attorneys.

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The Super Lawyers lists are published nationwide in Super Lawyers Magazines and in leading city and regional magazines and newspapers across the country. Super Lawyers Magazines also feature editorial profiles of attorneys who embody excellence in the practice of law. For more information about Super Lawyers, visit SuperLawyers.com.

Cal/OSHA Approves Updated ETS, With More Revisions to Come

Update: On June 9, 2021, OSHSB voted to withdraw the June 3, 2021 updates to the COVID-19 ETS (which are outlined below), and is expected to convene on June 17, 2021 to review further changes to the ETS that would bring Cal/OSHA’s guidance in line with CDC and CDPH recommendations. Read more here, and stay tuned for more updates from Cal/OSHA in the coming weeks.

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On May 20, 2021, Cal/OSHA’s Occupational Safety & Health Standards Board (OSHSB) postponed a vote to approve proposed changes to the Emergency Temporary Standards for COVID-19 Prevention (ETS) to bring the ETS in line with CDC Guidance. After over nine hours of public commentary and deliberation on June 3, 2021, the Board voted to approve the newly revised ETS, which remain more stringent than CDC and California Department of Public Health (CDPH) guidance.

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The revised ETS will now be submitted to California’s Office of Administrative Law (OAL) for review, and will likely be approved within the next 10 days, just before California’s anticipated June 15th reopening. During the June 3rd meeting, OSHSB indicated that employers can expect further revisions to the ETS, as well as detailed FAQs, to be released in the coming months.

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Below is a summary of some of the most notable revisions to the ETS, which include adjustments to masking, testing, social distancing, and other requirements. As a reminder, California employers may still be subject to stricter requirements imposed by other regulatory bodies and/or local governments (such as Los Angeles County).

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COVID-19 Prevention Measures

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Notably, many of these provisions carry limited exemptions for fully vaccinated workers. A worker is considered “fully vaccinated” under the ETS if the employer has documentation demonstrating that the person received, at least 14 days prior, either the second dose in a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine series or a single-dose COVID-19 vaccine that is either FDA-approved or has emergency use authorization from the FDA.

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Many provisions apply specifically to indoor worksites and “outdoor mega events,” which are events that include over 10,000 participants or spectators outdoors. These may include conventions, shows, outdoor nightclubs, concerts, sporting events, theme parks, fairs, festivals, large races, and parades.

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Physical Distancing and Partitions

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All physical distancing requirements are set to expire on July 31, 2021. In the meantime, for indoor worksites and outdoor mega events, employers must choose to comply with one of the following two protocols:

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Option A: All employees must be separated from other persons by at least six feet, regardless of vaccination status, except for:

  • employees wearing respirators required by the employer and used in compliance with Cal/OSHA’s respirator standard;
  • where an employer can demonstrate that six feet of separation is not feasible (employees must still be as far apart as is feasible); and
  • momentary exposure while persons are in movement.

Option B: All employees who are not fully vaccinated must be provided respirators for voluntary use in compliance with Cal/OSHA’s respirator standard.

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Acceptable physical distancing methods (applicable to Option A) include:

  • telework or other remote work arrangements;
  • reducing the number of persons in an area at one time, including visitors;
  • visual cues such as signs and floor markings to indicate where employees and others should be located or their direction and path of travel;
  • staggered arrival, departure, work, and break times; and
  • adjusted work processes or procedures, such as reducing production speed, to allow greater distance between employees.

To clarify, the following are exempt from physical distancing requirements:

  • Employees wearing respirators required by the employer and used in compliance with Cal/OSHA’s respirator standard, and
  • Locations at which all employees are fully vaccinated, except for employees who require a reasonable accommodation or exception to vaccination under federal or state law (such as FEHA, the ADA, and Title VII). For this exemption to apply, the employer must provide respirators for voluntary use in compliance with Cal/OSHA’s respirator standard to all employees who are not fully vaccinated and test those employees for COVID-19 at least once per week, during paid time and at no cost to the employees.

Until July 31, 2021, where applicable, partitions must stay in place to protect workers indoors and at outdoor mega events. After July 31, 2021, employers may remove partitions, but must reinstall them in the case of multiple COVID-19 infections or outbreaks in the workplace.

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Testing

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Starting July 31, 2021, employers must make COVID-19 testing available during paid time and at no cost to the employee for employees who are not fully vaccinated and have COVID-19 symptoms. This requirement applies whether or not the employee had a “close contact” with a COVID-19 case, and whether or not the exposure was work-related.

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Employers must also make COVID-19 testing available at no cost, during paid time, to all employees who had a close contact in the workplace, except:

  • Employees who were fully vaccinated before the “close contact” occurred and are asymptomatic, and
  • Employees with “natural immunity” (essentially COVID-19 cases who were infected and returned to work within 90 days prior to the exposure).

Face Coverings/Masking

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Significantly, when required, employees must use face coverings that are surgical masks, medical procedure masks, or double layered (of tightly woven or non-woven material) masks, or respirators. This does not include: scarves, ski masks, balaclavas, bandanas, turtlenecks, collars, or masks made of a single layer of fabric.

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Employers are still required to provide face coverings and ensure employees properly wear acceptable face coverings that are clean and undamaged when indoors, when outdoors and less than six feet away from other persons, and when required by the CDPH or any local health department. However, the updated ETS adds the following exemptions:

  • When an employee is alone in a room, or when all persons in a room are fully vaccinated and asymptomatic,
  • Employees wearing respirators required by the employer and used in compliance with Cal/OSHA’s respirator standard, and
  • Employees who are fully vaccinated and asymptomatic when they are outdoors.

The language in the updated ETS indicates that, starting June 15, if all workers in the same room are fully vaccinated and symptom-free, they are exempt from masking and physical distancing requirements. However, masks are still required when any person (which may include workers, customers, or other visitors) in a room is not fully vaccinated, regardless of other workers’ vaccination status. Therefore, California workers who interact with the public will likely be subject to face covering requirements regardless of vaccination status, even after June 15. Cal/OSHA is expected to release FAQs clarifying their masking requirements within the next few weeks.

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After July 31, 2021, employers must provide respirators (such as N95s) to all employees who are not fully vaccinated for voluntary use. Cal/OSHA does not specify an end date for this guidance.

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Employee Training

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Employers are now required to provide training on COVID-19 vaccinations and testing accessibility, proper use of respirators (if they are provided for voluntary use), the differing efficacies of respirators and face coverings, and other specified topics.

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Exclusion from the Workplace

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Fully vaccinated and naturally immune workers do not need to be excluded from work after a close contact if they remain asymptomatic. In a change from the previous draft of the revised ETS, individuals who are COVID-19 cases, but are asymptomatic and were fully vaccinated before becoming a COVID-19 case, must be excluded from work for 10 days after the positive test.

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Newly Revised Definitions for Close Contacts, Outbreak Testing, Mega Events

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Fully Vaccinated

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Employees are considered “fully vaccinated” for the purposes of this guidance when the employer obtains documentation showing that the person received, at least 14 days prior, either the second dose in a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine series or a single-dose COVID-19 vaccine. Unlike CDC guidance, which includes vaccines approved or emergency authorized by the World Health Organization, vaccines must be approved or emergency authorized by the FDA.

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The anticipated revised ETS FAQs will likely include more information indicating how employers may comply with vaccine documentation and other medical records requirements.

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Close Contact

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“Close contact,” for the purposes of this guidance, is defined as being within six feet of a COVID-19 case for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or greater in any 24-hour period within or overlapping with the “high-risk exposure period” of the COVID-19 case, regardless of the use of face coverings.

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Outbreak Testing

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Outbreak testing is required when three or more cases within an “exposed group” visit the workplace during their high-risk exposure period within a 14-day period; the ETS revisions eliminate the requirement for outbreak testing when a workplace has been identified by the local health department as an outbreak site.

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Exposed Groups

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The newly revised ETS exchanges the term “exposed workplace” to “exposed group,” which is defined as:

“All employees at a work location, working area, or a common area at work, where an employee COVID-19 case was present at any time during the high-risk exposure period. A common area at work includes bathrooms, walkways, hallways, aisles, break or eating areas, and waiting areas.”

The following situations are exempt from this definition:

  • A place where persons momentarily pass through while everyone is wearing face coverings, without congregating.
  • The COVID-19 case was part of a distinct group of employees that are not present at the workplace at the same time as other employees (only employees within that distinct group are part of the “exposed group”).
  • The COVID-19 case visited a work location, work area, or common area at work during the high risk exposure period for less than 15 minutes, during which all persons were wearing face coverings.

Resources for California Employers

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Assuming the OAL approves the updated ETS, Cal/OSHA is expected to release FAQs clarifying the updated ETS within the next few weeks. In addition, OSHSB appointed a three-member subcommittee to convene with Cal/OSHA to draft further revisions to the ETS, which may bring the standards more in line with CDC and CDPH guidance in the coming months.

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View the full text of the revised ETS, which will likely go into effect just before June 15, 2021, here.

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View Cal/OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard (Cal. Code. Regs., tit. 8, section 5144) here.

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Employers should also be mindful of continued compliance with applicable County and/or City protocols. Los Angeles County guidance can be found here.

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If you have questions regarding the application of Cal/OSHA’s updated ETS to your business, please contact one of the following attorneys in The Maloney Firm’s Employment Law Department: Patrick MaloneyLisa Von EschenSamantha Botros, or Nicholas Grether.

LA County Requires Some Employers in Unincorporated Areas to Provide Paid COVID-19 Vaccine Leave

On May 18, 2021, Los Angeles County passed an urgency ordinance requiring some employers to provide additional paid leave for employees to receive COVID-19 vaccinations. This leave is to be provided if employees exhaust the COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave required by the State.

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Eligibility

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This legislation applies to all private employers in the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County. Both full-time and part-time employees are covered under this ordinance.

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Provisions

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Eligible employers must provide paid leave that includes time spent for:

  • traveling to and from a COVID-19 vaccine appointment,
  • receiving the COVID-19 vaccine injection, and
  • recovering from any symptoms related to receiving the COVID-19 vaccine that prevent them from being able to work or telework.

For the purposes of this ordinance, “Full-time employees” are defined as those employees the employer considers to work full-time or who worked or were scheduled to work, on average, at least 40 hours per week in the two weeks preceding this leave. Full-time employees are entitled to a maximum of 4 hours of additional paid leave per vaccine injection. Part-time employees—defined as any employees that are not full-time—are entitled to the prorated amount of four hours per injection based on their normally scheduled work hours over the two-week period preceding the injection.

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Employees must be compensated at their normal rate of pay, calculated based on their highest average two-week pay during the period between January 1, 2021 through May 18, 2021.

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This paid leave is only available if employees exhaust all available supplemental paid sick leave mandated by the State of California, and must be provided in addition to any other job-protected paid leave employees are entitled to under California’s Healthy Workplace Healthy Family Act.

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Notification and Record-Keeping Requirements

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Covered employers are required to post a written notice, which will soon be created by the Los Angeles County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs, in a conspicuous place where employees work. Affected employers must also maintain records demonstrating compliance with this ordinance, including payroll records for each employee.

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Effective Time Period

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As an urgency ordinance, the above provisions took effect immediately. The ordinance applies retroactively to January 1, 2021 and will expire on August 31, 2021.

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Resources for California Employers

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Read the full text of the urgency ordinance here.

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Monitor the LA County Department of Consumer and Business Affair’s website for a posting of the required written notice associated with this ordinance here.

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Access information on Los Angeles County’s Unincorporated Areas here.

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Learn more about California’s recently expanded supplemental paid sick leave requirements here.

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If you have questions regarding the application of LA County’s newly mandated COVID-19 Vaccine Leave to your business, please contact one of the following attorneys in The Maloney Firm’s Employment Law Department: Patrick MaloneyLisa Von EschenSamantha Botros, or Nicholas Grether.

CDPH Confirms California’s June 15 Reopening Date and Updates Guidance

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On May 21, 2021, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) released updated guidance for moving beyond the Blueprint for a Safer Economy, confirming the State’s June 15 reopening date. Amongst the most significant changes is the withdrawal of physical distancing and capacity limit requirements in all settings. California businesses will still be subject to Cal/OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standards (expected to be revised on June 3, 2021), and potentially more stringent local requirements.

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Restrictions

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When the state progresses past the Blueprint on June 15, 2021, most COVID-19 restrictions imposed by the State of California will be lifted. Certain limitations will stay in place for “mega events,” as noted below.

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Capacity Limitations and Physical Distancing

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All physical distancing requirements and capacity limitations in both indoor and outdoor settings will be lifted, meaning that businesses across all sectors may choose to open at full capacity.

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Masking

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Individuals will be required to follow the updated CDPH Guidance for Face Coverings, which is aligned with CDC guidance and differs for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.

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Vaccine Verification and Negative Testing

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Although businesses (and local governments) may still impose their own requirements, California will not mandate vaccine verification or negative testing requirements for any activities (with the exception of some mega events).

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Traveling

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Although all restrictions on travel outside of California will ostensibly be lifted, the CDPH notes that travelers must adhere to CDC recommendations and CDPH travel restrictions.

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Exceptions for Indoor/Outdoor Mega Events

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Mega events are broadly defined as “planned public or social occasions that include over 5,000 participants or spectators indoors and over 10,000 outdoors.” Different restrictions will apply for indoor and outdoor mega events. Requirements and recommendations for negative testing/vaccine verification will be in place effective June 15, 2021 through October 1, 2021, with the option to extend them further.

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For indoor mega events, attendees will be required to verify their fully vaccinated status or pre-entry negative test results. For more information on acceptable verification methods and acceptable testing requirements, navigate to the CDPH guidance’s footnotes. For more information on who is considered “fully vaccinated” by the CDPH, click here.

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For outdoor mega events, verification of vaccination or pre-entry negative test results is strongly recommended, but not required, for all attendees. Outdoor venues will be required to make masks available for all attendees.

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In addition to general public health recommendations, all mega events must also adhere to notice/communications and masking requirements imposed by the CDPH. Information must be prominently placed on all communications, including the reservation and ticketing systems, to ensure guests are aware of the applicable recommendations and requirements set out by the CDPH.

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Potentially More Stringent Precautions

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Cal/OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standards

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The California Occupational Safety & Health Standards Board is scheduled to release a proposal to update the COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) on May 28, 2021, and will likely reconvene to vote on these revisions on June 3, 2021. In the meantime, employers are still subject to the November 2020 ETS.

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Local Laws

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Businesses may still be subject to more stringent restrictions posed by individual cities and counties, and should monitor local guidance.

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Resources for California Employers

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View the CDPH’s Beyond the Blueprint announcement here.

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View the CDPH’s Beyond the Blueprint Q&A here.

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As California’s targeted reopening date on June 15, 2021 fast approaches, employers should stay tuned for newly updated guidance from Cal/OSHA and other regulatory agencies. If you have questions regarding the CDPH or Cal/OSHA’s updated guidance, please contact one of the following attorneys in The Maloney Firm’s Employment Law Department: Patrick MaloneyLisa Von EschenSamantha Botros, or Nicholas Grether.