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. Yet, 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, correctional facilities, and long-term care settings.

Workers must wear masks during outbreaks. Workers must also wear masks when returning to work after having COVID-19 or a close contact.

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. Employers must ensure workers follow the CDPH-recommended isolation periods. Find details in the isolation and quarantine section of the Cal/OSHA FAQs.

Workers (who do not work in certain high-risk settings such as healthcare) 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:

  • You get a negative result from a COVID-19 test.
  • 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.

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

Workers (who do not work in certain high-risk settings) exposed to someone with COVID-19, and do not have COVID-19 symptoms

If you were exposed to someone with COVID-19, but you do not have symptoms, you must get tested on Day 3 to 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 3 to 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 3 to Day 5 due to lack of tests, you must be excluded from work for 10 days after your last exposure.

This applies to everyone, regardless of vaccination status. Persons infected within the prior 90 days do not need to be tested unless symptoms develop.

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

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 or date of positive test.
  • 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 have had a previous infection.

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 fully vaccinated, or get tested regularly for COVID-19.

State offices

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


Vaccination requirement for healthcare facilities and congregate settings

For details about vaccination requirements in certain settings, see:


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