Today, California Department of Public Health issued a directive requiring that all people in California must wear face coverings when they are in high-risk situations.
Given the continually changing legal landscape, we strongly encourage employers to reach out to Raimondo & Associates with questions regarding specific situations. We are closely monitoring these developments. Because of these frequent developments, and the need to adapt the general guidance below to specific circumstances, employers should consult counsel regarding specific circumstances.
At a general level, the legal rules and guidance we summarize below should not be applied in a manner that would prevent employers from taking reasonable, common-sense steps to protect the health and safety of employees, customers, vendors and their communities. There are many nuances and fact-specific elements that make individualized legal counsel on these questions of critical importance.
Q: What is a “high-risk situation”?
California requires everyone in the state, with some exceptions, to wear a face covering when they are:
- Inside of, or in line to enter, any indoor public space, except for specifically exempted public settings such as schools or childcare centers;
- Obtaining services from the healthcare sector in settings including, but not limited to, hospitals, pharmacies, medical clinics, laboratories, physician or dental offices, veterinary clinics, or blood banks – unless otherwise directed by an employee or healthcare provider;
- Waiting for or riding on public transportation or paratransit or while in a taxi, private car service, or ride-sharing vehicle;
- Engaged in work, whether at the workplace or performing work off0site, when:
- Interacting in-person with any member of the public;
- Working in any space visited by members of the public, regardless of whether anyone from the public is present at the time;
- Working in any space where food is prepared or packaged for sale or distribution to others;
- Working in or walking through common areas, such as hallways, stairways, elevators, and parking facilities;
- In any room or enclosed area where other people (except for members of the person’s own household or residence) are present when unable to physically distance.
- Driving or operating any public transportation or paratransit vehicle, taxi, or private car service or ride-sharing vehicle when passengers are present. When no passengers are present, face coverings are strongly recommended.
- While outdoors in public spaces when maintaining a physical distance of 6 feet from persons who are not members of the same household or residence is not feasible.
Q: What are the exceptions to this new requirement?
People exempted from wearing a face covering due to a medical condition who are employed in a job involving regular contact with others should wear a non-restrictive alternative, such as a face shield with a drape on the bottom edge, as long as their condition permits it.
The following categories of people are exempted from California’s face covering requirement:
- Persons age two years or under. These very young children must not wear a face covering because of the risk of suffocation.
- Persons with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that prevents wearing a face covering. This includes persons with a medical condition for whom wearing a face covering could obstruct breathing or who are unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a face covering without assistance.
- Persons who are hearing impaired, or communicating with a person who is hearing impaired, where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.
- Persons for whom wearing a face covering would create a risk to the person related to their work, as determined by local, state, or federal regulators or workplace safety guidelines.
- Persons who are obtaining a service involving the nose or face for which temporary removal of the face covering is necessary to perform the service.
- Persons who are seated at a restaurant or other establishment that offers food or beverage service, while they are eating or drinking, provided that they are able to maintain a distance of at least six feet away from persons who are not members of the same household or residence.
- Persons who are engaged in outdoor work or recreation such as swimming, walking, hiking, bicycling, or running, when alone or with household members, and when they are able to maintain a distance of at least six feet from others.
- Persons who are incarcerated. Prisons and jails, as part of their mitigation plans, will have specific guidance on the wearing of face coverings or masks for both inmates and staff.