California has rules to keep workplaces safe from COVID-19.

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COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards

Physical distancing and capacity limits for businesses and activities are over. Guidance for specific industries has ended. But employers are still responsible for maintaining safe environments for employees and customers.

Employers must follow workplace safety and health regulations to protect workers. That includes protecting workers from COVID-19.

Follow the California Division of Occupational Health and Safety (Cal/OSHA) COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) to keep your workplace safe. They cover:

  • How to prevent infection in the workplace
  • What to do about outbreaks
  • How to keep employees safe in employer-provided transportation and housing

Visit Safer At Work to learn more about COVID-19 workplace safety.


Masking at work

Masks are strongly recommended for everyone indoors. 

Workers must wear masks indoors in certain sectors. This includes healthcare, public transit, and correctional facilities.

Workers must wear masks during outbreaks and in employer-provided transportation. 

Employers must provide workers with masks upon request and at no cost to workers.

Find details about masking at work in the face coverings section of the Cal/OSHA FAQs.


Returning to work after getting sick or exposed to COVID-19

Employers must ensure workers meet the criteria in the COVID-19 Prevention ETS before they return to work. When CDPH recommends shorter periods, employers must ensure workers meet the CDPH-recommended criteria. Find details in the isolation and quarantine section of the Cal/OSHA FAQs.

Workers exposed to someone with COVID-19 and have COVID-19 symptoms

If you were exposed to someone with COVID-19 and you have COVID-19 symptoms, you can return to work when all of these are true:

  • Your fever is gone, and
    • You have no other symptoms, or
    • Your other symptoms are improving.
  • You get a negative result from a COVID-19 test on Day 5 or later from when your symptoms began.
  • You wear a well-fitting mask around others for 10 days, especially when indoors.

Otherwise, you cannot return to work until all of these are true:

  • At least 10 days have passed since your symptoms began
  • Your fever is gone for 24 hours 
  • Your symptoms have improved

This applies to everyone, regardless of vaccination status. It also applies to people who had a previous infection.

Workers that do not have COVID-19 symptoms, but test positive

If you do not have symptoms, but you test positive for COVID-19, you can return to work when all of these are true:

  • You never developed symptoms.
  • You get a negative result from a COVID-19 test on Day 5 or later from your last exposure.
  • You wear a well-fitting mask around others for 10 days, especially when indoors.

Otherwise, you cannot return to work for at least 10 days after you first tested positive.

This applies to everyone, regardless of vaccination status. It also applies to those who had a previous infection.

Workers that do not have COVID-19 symptoms, but were exposed to someone with COVID-19

If you were exposed to someone with COVID-19, but you do not have symptoms, you must get tested on Day 5.

You can continue to go to work if all of these are true:

  • You continue not to have COVID-19 symptoms.
  • You get a negative result from a COVID-19 test on Day 5 from your last exposure.
  • You wear a well-fitting mask around others for 10 days, especially when indoors.

If you cannot get tested on Day 5 because tests are not available, you can continue to go to work. You must do the following for 14 days after your last exposure:

  • Wear a mask
  • Maintain 6 feet of distance from others

If you’re eligible for a booster, but have not received it yet, you can continue to go to work if all of these are true:

  • You get a negative result from a COVID-19 test within 3-5 days from your last exposure.
  • You continue to not have COVID-19 symptoms. 
  • You wear a well-fitting mask around others for 10 days, especially when indoors.

Otherwise, you can return to work when all of these are true:

  • You never developed COVID-19 symptoms. 
  • You get a negative result from a COVID-19 test on Day 5 or later from your last exposure.
  • You wear a well-fitting mask around others for 10 days, especially when indoors.

If you do not get tested because tests are not available, you can return to work after Day 10 from your last exposure.

Exclusion pay

Employers must provide you with exclusion pay:

  • When you’re excluded from the workplace due to exposure that occurred at work
  • For the days you would have worked during the exclusion period
  • That is the same as your regular rate of pay
  • To you no later than the regular payday for the pay period

You’re not eligible for exclusion pay if you:

  • Were assigned to work from home while excluded and were able to do so
  • Receive disability payments while excluded
  • Are covered by workers’ compensation benefits and received temporary disability payments while excluded

Employers cannot require you to use your standard accrued paid sick leave. This is true even when you’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19 at work and your employer must exclude you.

Read the exclusion pay and benefits section of the Cal/OSHA FAQs to learn more.

Consider filing a workers’ compensation claim if you:

  • Were exposed to COVID-19 in the workplace and test positive
  • Are unable to work due to COVID-19 symptoms

Paid sick leave

Learn about paid sick leave and other options.

What to do if your employer does not follow workplace safety or other laws

Employers must exclude certain workers who were exposed to someone with COVID-19 from the workplace. If your employer fails to exclude exposed workers, file a workplace safety complaint.  

File a wage claim for exclusion pay if you:

  • Were excluded from work due to a work-related exposure to COVID-19, and
  • Did not receive pay while excluded.

You can also file a report of a labor law violation if this affects a group of workers.

You’re protected by California laws that prohibit retaliation for exercising workplace rights. If your employer retaliates because you requested exclusion pay, file a retaliation complaint. Contact the California Labor Commissioner’s Office for help.


Employers may require workers to be vaccinated

An employer can require their employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccine as long as the employer:

  • Does not discriminate against or harass employees or job applicants on the basis of a protected characteristic, such as disability or national origin
  • Provides reasonable accommodations related to disability or sincerely-held religious beliefs or practices
  • Does not retaliate against anyone for engaging in protected activities, such as requesting a reasonable accommodation

Learn more about workplace safety and civil rights in the Department of Fair Employment and Housing’s FAQs.

Find details about reasonable accommodations in the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Commission’s information about COVID-19 and EEO laws.

Request proof of vaccination

Employers requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination status for employees or patrons should follow the CDPH Vaccine Record Guidelines and Standards:

  • Verify records through a private and confidential process.
  • Protect patrons from discrimination.
  • Do not create barriers to essential services or restrict access based on a protected characteristic.

Help employees get vaccinated

Employers can assist their employees by:

  • Coordinating vaccination events with provider partners
  • Hosting a mobile or pop-up clinic
  • Helping employees book appointments
  • Providing employees with educational resources

Learn more in the Employer Vaccination Toolkit.


Vaccination requirement for schools and state offices

K-12 schools

Teachers and school employees must verify that they are vaccinated, or get tested regularly for COVID-19.

State offices

State employees working on-site must verify that they are vaccinated, or get tested regularly for COVID-19 and wear a mask.


Vaccination requirement for healthcare facilities and congregate settings

Healthcare workers and workers in congregate settings must be vaccinated and get a booster. This includes people who work in:

  • Healthcare facilities
  • Adult and senior care facilities
  • In-home care
  • Homeless shelters
  • Correctional facilities and detention centers

Exceptions can only be made for those with:

  • Conflicting religious beliefs, or
  • Qualified medical reasons.

Workers meeting an exception who are not vaccinated and boosted must:

  • Get tested for COVID-19 regularly, and
  • Wear masks or other personal protective equipment at work.

Find details about vaccination requirements:


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