Vigilant Blog

News, trends and analysis in employment law, HR, safety & workers' comp

Apr 23, 2020

CALIFORNIA: San Francisco requires face coverings for some workers

COVID-19Safety and Health 

The City of San Francisco has issued a public health order requiring individuals to wear face coverings in public, including employees performing work at essential businesses (as defined by the Shelter in Place Order issued on March 16, 2020). Essential businesses must require their employees, contractors, owners, and volunteers to wear face coverings when: (1) interacting with members of the public; (2) working in any space visited by the public; (3) working in any space where food is prepared or packaged for sale or distribution to others; (4) working in or walking through common areas (e.g. hallways, stairways, elevators, etc.); and (5) in any room or enclosed area when other people are present. The order doesn’t require face coverings when an employee is alone and in a space not regularly visited by the public, such as working in personal offices, performing construction work outdoors, or working as a plumber. The order also allows an exception if an individual can show either that a medical professional advised against wearing a face covering for health-related reasons, or wearing a face covering would create a workplace safety hazard. To comply with the order, individuals must only wear a face covering made of cloth, fabric, or other permeable material, which covers the nose and mouth. The order specifically states that members of the public shouldn’t try to obtain N95 respirators or surgical masks while those items are in short supply.

Essential businesses must take reasonable measures to ensure their customers and members of the public comply with the order, including prohibiting anyone who doesn’t comply from entering their facility. The San Francisco Department of Public Health has developed a sample sign that essential businesses can use to assist in their compliance efforts. The order was issued on April 17, 2020, with enforcement beginning on April 22, 2020.

Tips For Employers: The San Francisco order only requires face coverings, not respirators (review our previous newsletter article to understand the difference between the two). However, since employers will now be requiring workers in San Francisco to wear face coverings under the circumstances listed in the order, it’s possible that employers will need to comply with the health and safety rules regarding personal protective equipment (PPE). In particular, if you require the use of PPE on the job, you must provide and pay for that equipment. To understand more about your obligations to provide and pay for PPE, review our Legal Guide, Personal Protective Equipment, and call your Vigilant Law Group employment attorney for guidance.

This website presents general information in nontechnical language. This information is not legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific management decision, consult legal counsel.