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

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COVID-19 workplace safety

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.

COVID-19 Prevention Emergency Temporary Standards

Employers must follow workplace safety and health regulations to protect workers. That includes protecting workers from COVID-19. Follow the 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 recommended for everyone at work indoors, whether they are vaccinated or unvaccinated. The California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) encourages employers and workers to follow the California Department of Public Health’s Guidance for the Use of Face Coverings.

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

Employers must ensure workers meet the criteria in the ETS before they return to work. 

Workers that have COVID-19 symptoms

If a worker has symptoms, they cannot return to work until all of these are true:

  • At least 10 days have passed since their symptoms began
  • Their fever has been gone for 24 hours without the aid of medication 
  • Their symptoms have improved

This applies whether they are vaccinated or not. A negative test is not required to return to work. 

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

If a worker does not have symptoms, but tests positive, they cannot return to work for at least 10 days after they first tested positive. This applies whether they are vaccinated or not. A negative test is not required to return to work.

Workers that do not have COVID-19 symptoms, but had close contact

A worker who had close contact with someone who has COVID-19 can continue to go to work if all of these are true:

  • They have either:
  • They do not have symptoms
  • They did not test positive

If a worker does not have symptoms, had close contact, and is not vaccinated, when they may return to work depends:

  • If they test negative after Day 5 from the last date of exposure, they may return to work after Day 7
  • If they do not get tested, they cannot return to work for at least 10 days since their last exposure to COVID-19

Vaccination and testing requirements

In some workplaces, workers must verify that they are fully vaccinated, or be regularly tested for COVID-19.

Healthcare facilities and congregate settings

People who work in these locations must verify that they are fully vaccinated:

  • 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 a:

  • Conflicting religious belief
  • Qualified medical reason

Workers who are not be vaccinated must:

  • Get tested for COVID-19 regularly
  • Wear masks

Find details about vaccination requirements:

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.

K-12 schools

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

Find a testing location Get your digital vaccine record

Providing N95 respirators

Employers must provide unvaccinated employees with N95 respirators upon their request and at no cost. California is providing a one-month supply of N95 respirators to small businesses. Visit the Voluntary N95 Distribution page if your business would like to participate in this program.  

Employers may require employees 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 Department of Public Health’s 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.


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