As you know, the CDC issued guidance last week stating that vaccinated individuals no longer need to wear masks. As a result, many retail establishments no longer require mask usage in their stores. What does this mean for private employers?
First, you can relax mask wearing at work absent state or local rules to the contrary. Just because you can, however, does not mean you should. Assuming there are no applicable state or local rules requiring mask usage at your work location, you are still subject to OSHA regulation. While OSHA has not (yet) issued a standard requiring mask usage, you still have a general duty to provide a safe work environment for your employees. Until this week, OSHA expected that your workers would wear masks, even if it did not require them. However, on Monday, OSHA stated that it is reviewing the new CDC guidance, so stay tuned.
Second, if you decide to relax mask usage, we recommend that you limit that privilege to fully vaccinated employees given the CDC guidance on this issue. You can require mask usage for non-vaccinated employees and not require it for fully vaccinated employees.
Third, we recommend that you have documentation from your vaccinated employees that supports your policy of allowing them not to wear a mask. Information that you gather, however, needs to be limited – such as either a yes or a no as to whether they have been fully vaccinated or a copy of their vaccination card.
Finally, you also can continue to require mask usage from all your employees, both vaccinated and unvaccinated. Just because CDC relaxed its guidance does not mean you have to. Governor Abbott’s recent executive order prohibiting mask requirements only applies to governmental entities, including most public employers in the State of Texas. It does not apply to private employers. While you may receive complaints from employees that such a policy inhibits their freedom, this is no different from your other policies and procedures which, like a mask rule, are designed to provide a safe work environment for all employees.
Be safe and stay the course. And of course, let us know if we can help.