Citing the presence of the Omicron variant in California and the heightened transmission risks surrounding the holiday season, the California Department of Public Health has instituted an indoor masking mandate for public settings effective December 15, 2021 and continuing through January 15, 2022. The mandate requires all individuals in indoor public settings to wear masks, with surgical masks or higher-level respirators being recommended.
The following individuals are exempt from the masking mandate:
- Children under the age of 2;
- Individuals with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that prevents wearing a mask;
- Individuals who are hearing impaired or communicating with a person who is hearing impaired; and
- Individuals for whom wearing a mask would be a work safety issue, as determined by law or workplace safety guidelines.
Employers with workplaces open to the public, like grocery stores, restaurants, theaters, and retail locations will need to update their policies to ensure their employees are wearing appropriate face coverings through at least January 15, 2022.
The mandate does not expressly cover employers with private offices that are not open to the public. Nevertheless, unless and until the state provides additional guidance regarding the definition of a “public indoor setting,” we suggest that employers operating private offices that are not generally open to the public should implement masking requirements for spaces where employees congregate or access as a group, such as hallways, elevators, stairwells, kitchens and other places of gathering in the workplace. We will continue to monitor these developments.