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In a sign that the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact is waning and vaccines are having an impact on the spread of the virus, on May 13, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that fully vaccinated people may resume their pre-COVID-19 pandemic activities without wearing a mask, except where required by, among other things, federal or state law and local business and workplace guidance and rules.

Though welcome news for many, the CDC’s announcement left employers wondering whether they still needed to, or should, require fully vaccinated employees to wear face coverings consistent with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Jan. 29, 2021, COVID-19 non-mandatory guidance, titled “Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace.”

On May 17, OSHA answered the question: “No.” On its website, the workplace safety agency instructed employers to follow the CDC’s recent mask guidance for employees who are fully vaccinated. OSHA’s announcement, however, does not apply to activities in the health care industry (see CDC announcement for some additional exceptions). OSHA plans to update its non-mandatory COVID-19 safety and health guidance based on the CDC’s new mask guidance.

Although OSHA has given employers the “green light” to permit fully vaccinated employees to stop wearing face coverings in the workplace, employers must still adhere to state and local mask mandates. To date, not all states and localities have withdrawn their mask mandates; some states, like California, Virginia, Michigan, and Oregon, have workplace safety regulations related to COVID-19 that specifically require employees to wear face coverings in the workplace without regard to whether an employee is fully vaccinated. As such, employers should review state and local mandates and regulations when considering whether to roll back their employee face covering requirement.

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Photo of Michael T. Taylor Michael T. Taylor

Michael Taylor is Chair of the firm’s Labor & Employment Practice’s OSHA group. He focuses his practice exclusively on representing employers regarding Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Chemical Safety Board (CSB) matters across the country. Over the last eighteen years, Michael

Michael Taylor is Chair of the firm’s Labor & Employment Practice’s OSHA group. He focuses his practice exclusively on representing employers regarding Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Chemical Safety Board (CSB) matters across the country. Over the last eighteen years, Michael has defended scores of employers during enforcement litigation before federal OSHA, Cal-OSHA, SC-OSHA, WA-DOSH, as well as other state plan states. Many of these representations have involved a significant injury, fatality, or catastrophic event in the workplace.

Currently, Michael is providing guidance to employers regarding appropriate engineering, work practices, administrative controls, and personal protective equipment when dealing with COVID-19 in the workplace. Michael also provides OSHA compliance counseling, OSHA inspection counseling, OSHA whistleblower representation, and OSHA due diligence reviews, and CSB investigations for clients.  Michael has wide-ranging experience in the workplace safety field, including his prior public service as General Counsel to the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, the federal agency in charge of the trials and appeals of workplace safety and health disputes between federal OSHA and the regulated community. In 2013, EHS Today named Michael as one of the Top 50 People Who Most Influenced Environmental, Health, and Safety. A highly committed advocate, Michael’s clients can rely on him to be present and engaged regarding any workplace safety and health issue in any state across the country.

‡ Admitted in the District of Columbia. Not admitted in Virginia. Practice in Virginia limited to federal OSHA and proceedings before federal agencies.

Photo of Michael G. Murphy Michael G. Murphy

Michael Murphy is a board certified construction lawyer who focuses his practice on defects, design claims, delay, disruption and acceleration claims, lien foreclosures, and arbitration on behalf of owners, developers, contractors and subcontractors. He reviews and draft construction contacts. He advises clients in…

Michael Murphy is a board certified construction lawyer who focuses his practice on defects, design claims, delay, disruption and acceleration claims, lien foreclosures, and arbitration on behalf of owners, developers, contractors and subcontractors. He reviews and draft construction contacts. He advises clients in the construction industry on OSHA compliance issues, workplace accident and fatality investigations, and contest of citations through trial. He also practices in the area of commercial litigation.

Photo of Adam Roseman Adam Roseman

Adam Roseman focuses his practice on federal and state labor and employment investigations, counseling and litigation arising under Title VII, the Fair Labor Standards Act, whistleblower retaliation under Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and restrictive covenants. Adam also has

Adam Roseman focuses his practice on federal and state labor and employment investigations, counseling and litigation arising under Title VII, the Fair Labor Standards Act, whistleblower retaliation under Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, and restrictive covenants. Adam also has experience on white collar matters, representing clients during internal investigations and in civil and criminal government enforcement actions including the defense of qui tam/False Claims Act complaints.