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Essential Workers Must Cover Up and Stay Six Feet Apart

Facing COVID-19’s unfolding (sur)realities, LA City, LA County, Pasadena and Riverside County, among other local California public health authorities, have ordered that wear-a-mask and six-foot distance “recommendations” are now mandatory whenever possible for workers at essential businesses.

Effective April 10, a City of Los Angeles Worker Protection Order requires all workers from legally operating businesses to “wear face coverings over their noses and mouths while performing their work.”  This LA City order requires employers to provide “fabric coverings, such as scarves and bandanas” to be discarded properly if single use or washed at least once daily if not.  It also mandates that customers and visitors wear masks and permits such businesses to deny access to any who do not.  Those businesses must also facilitate employee hand washing or sanitizer use at least every 30 minutes, as well as supply proper, sanitized restrooms, and cleaning products.  Additionally, the LA City order requires all such businesses to implement social distancing for employees, as well as customers and visitors.

The LA City Order goes further: by midnight April 15, 2020 essential businesses must adopt and post near their entrances  a “Social Distancing Protocol” for every facility they operate, a sample provided in Appendix A to the order.

Referencing that same Appendix A, Los Angeles County through an April 10 revised Safer-at-Home Order has the same notice posting requirement, as does Pasadena, through its April 11 Revised Order for Control of COVID-19.  Affected employers also must give copies of that Social Distancing Protocol to their employees and furnish implementation evidence of that applicable order if any authorities inquire.

LA County’s and Pasadena’s orders mandate that essential businesses provide cloth face coverings to employees and contractors if their “duties require close contact with other employees and/or the public,” and define close contact as “within 6 feet of someone else for at least 10 minutes.” They require members of the public entering a business to wear face coverings as well.

Riverside County’s amended April 6, 2020 Order requires that all operating essential businesses  identify and adopt needed measures to “implement social distancing.” The county now requires: “All persons, including Essential Workers, shall wear face coverings, such as scarves (dense fabric without holes), bandanas, neck gaiter, or other fabric face coverings.”  The Riverside Order also discourages non-medical use of “Personal Protective Equipment . . . such as N95 masks.”

These orders also variously require measures such as limiting number of public entering a business, marking six-foot intervals when lines will form, providing sanitizing products at entrances, regular disinfecting of “high-touch surfaces,” and other steps to prevent spread of COVID-19.

Any businesses whose employees are required to wear face coverings at work must either supply the coverings or reimburse the cost of the face coverings as a business expense.

The only thing constant on this largely uncharted legal landscape is change.  We will shortly bring you further local “flatten the curve” updates statewide.

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For more information about these laws or other employment issues related to coronavirus, contact Tim Bowles, Cindy Bamforth or Helena Kobrin.

Helena Kobrin

April 16, 2020