COVID-19: Masks, 6-Foot Rule

In this episode of The Workplace podcast, CalChamber President and CEO Allan Zaremberg, and CalChamber Executive Vice President and General Counsel Erika Frank discuss best practices for enforcing workplace face mask and social distancing policies to ensure the safety of employees and customers.

For the last several months, employers have been busy implementing protocols to minimize the spread of COVID-19, Frank tells Zaremberg.

Since June 18, when Governor Gavin Newsom issued guidance on face covering and social distancing requirements, the CalChamber has received many inquiries regarding the mask and six-foot social distancing rules, she says.

On July 1, Governor Newsom issued orders that closed some types of businesses that operated only indoors. Because the rate of COVID-19 infections will determine whether businesses may stay open, it’s important that everyone wears a mask, Frank stresses.

Before the state mask order was issued, many employers asked the Governor to establish a mandate so that the burden of enforcement would not fall on the business community, Zaremberg explains.

The employers stated that they wanted to keep employees and customers safe and “don’t want to be the mask police,” he says.

CalChamber Resource Page

CalChamber’s COVID-19 resource page features important information for employers, including the state guidance issued on June 18 on when masks should be worn, and when there are exceptions to the general rule, Frank says.

Best Practices

Frank recommends that once an employer develops its company guidelines, the policy should be included in the employee handbook. Employers also can include the company’s face mask policy within its dress code policy or simply within its COVID-19 policy.

Frank also suggests that employers remind employees of the mask and distancing guidelines by putting up posters, and using decals or tape to measure out appropriate distancing so that people know where to stand.

Just as employers are staying on top of state rules, they also need to be aware of what is happening locally. While the Governor has established some rules, counties are establishing rules of their own as well, Frank explains. Therefore, employers should continually check their local health department’s website for any local orders that are issued.

During these unprecedented times it’s important to be flexible, Frank tells Zaremberg, and studies show that masks slow the spread of COVID-19. Employers, she says, should take it upon themselves to educate and train their employees on how best to protect themselves and their customers. Employers should remind their employees to:

  • Socially distance;
  • Wear a mask;
  • Stay home if they are feeling unwell; and
  • Wash their hands.

“The most important thing is to practice safety, wear a mask, and distance six feet for everybody who comes onto your premises,” Zaremberg says in closing.