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Work in an office? You’ll have to wear a mask past June 15 if you or a coworker is not vaccinated

The states occupational safety and health board, Cal/OSHA, voted Thursday to keep masks mandatory for employees at work past June 15, unless everyone in the room is fully vaccinated.

"This is one I think people are going to be particularly frustrated; they already are in California. We’ve been routinely behind all the other states and being able to get out and feel a sense of normalcy again so this is just one more barrier to that I think," said Ryan Quadrel, an attorney at SBEMP Attorneys.

The California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board made clear Thursday night that the regulations are only a stopgap while they consider further easing pandemic rules in coming weeks or months.

The board initially voted 4-to-3 to reject any changes to current rules.

But chairman David Thomas said that would have left employers with the current rules, which require masks for all employees, along with social distancing and partitions between employees in certain circumstances.

Moments later, the seven-member board unanimously adopted the revised regulations while a three-member subcommittee considers more changes.

"The conflicted sides to that are you have businesses who are lobbying to 'let’s just get back to normal' and then you have the laborer union efforts who are saying, 'No we really have to ensure workers are safe,'" said Quadrel.

For some businesses, like PostNet in Palm Desert, employee Richard Benavente said they will mainly leave it up to customers. 

"Working here by myself and with my part-time graphic designer, who has also been vaccinated and sits maybe 18-20 feet away from me-- him and I basically just as a courtesy to the customers, we’ll keep the mask on. If they’re like, 'I’m vaccinated you don’t have to wear a mask,' we’ll remove the mask." said Benavente.

Russell Albright who owns his own practice as an estate planning attorney in Palm Desert has taken a similar approach.

"If they don’t wear a mask my wife and I have both of our vaccination shots so we’re comfortable not having a mask on right now," said Albright of Albright Law.

But if clients don't feel safe without a mask, Albright said they would wear a mask if needed.

"We do have elderly and we’re very conscious of that with respect to what their feelings are, what their concerns are. In dealing with the state planning clients you have to build that trust and rapport between the attorney.  By me being a startup in California, I build up that rapport by taking into consideration what their feelings are," said Albright.

Recently the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released guidance allowing employers to offer incentives for employees to get vaccinated. Quadrel said that could add more pressure, and contribute to singling out certain people who haven't received the vaccine.

"I think employers are going to have to think about making sure everyone gets the fair shake," said Quadrel.

Quadrel also had advice for employers.

"One of the most important things is to have your written policies in place. Every company needs to have an IIPP, Injury and Illness Prevention Program. There needs to be specific COVID discussions and requirements in there," said Quadrel.

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Shelby Nelson

Shelby Nelson is a News Reporter for KESQ News Channel 3. She joined our team in September 2019. Learn more about Shelby here.


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