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In brief

The United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has decided to sing the same song as its sister agency. Last Friday, 13 August, OSHA updated its guidance for American workplaces, auto-tuning its recommendations for fully vaccinated employees to match recent guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In depth

Specifically, on the topic of workplace vaccination, OSHA now “suggests that employers consider adopting policies that require workers to get vaccinated or to undergo regular COVID-19 testing – in addition to mask wearing and physical distancing – if they remain unvaccinated.”

In so doing, OSHA joins the growing ensemble of government agencies recommending vaccine mandates, while public and private employers rush to require their workers to get vaccinated or undergo regular testing. (For details on this momentum, read more here or watch our video chat here.)

Additional Recommendations

OSHA updated its guidance to help employers and workers not covered by OSHA’s COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) for the healthcare industry to identify COVID-19 exposure risks to workers who are unvaccinated or otherwise at risk even if fully vaccinated (e.g., immunocompromised individuals).

The guidance encourages employers to engage with workers and their representatives to determine how to implement multi-layered intervention strategies to protect unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers and mitigate the spread of COVID-19, including:

  • Encouraging and facilitating employees to get vaccinated by providing paid time off, working with local agencies to offer vaccination clinics in the workplace, and adopting policies that mandate employee vaccination.
  • Instructing infected workers, unvaccinated workers who have had close contact with a positive COVID-91 case, and all workers with COVID-19 symptoms to stay home from work.
  • Implementing physical distancing in all communal work areas for unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers.
  • Providing workers with face coverings or surgical masks, unless their work task requires a respirator or other PPE. In addition to unvaccinated and otherwise at-risk workers, CDC recommends that even fully vaccinated people wear masks in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission.
  • Suggesting or requiring that unvaccinated customers, visitors, or guests wear face coverings in public-facing workplaces such as retail establishments, and that all customers, visitors, or guests wear face coverings in public, indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission.
  • Recording and reporting COVID-19 infections and deaths, in compliance with mandatory OSHA rules.
  • Implementing protections from retaliation and setting up an anonymous process for workers to voice concerns about COVID-19 related hazards.


While OSHA’s guidance is advisory, and not mandatory, employers would be wary of that siren song. Keeping the beat with recommended health and safety guidance, even when not compelled, puts employers in the best position to protect their people and defend against claims.

For help developing your return to office plans, please contact your Baker McKenzie employment lawyer.


Susan Eandi is the Chair of Baker McKenzie's North America Employment and Compensation Practice Group, head of the Global Employment and Labor Law Practice for North America, and a member of the North America Regional Management Council. She also serves on the Firm's Antiracism Legal Impact Board. Susan speaks regularly for organizations including ACC, Tech GC, Silicon Valley AGC and World Business Council for Sustainable Development. Susan publishes extensively in various external legal publications in addition to handbooks/magazines published by the Firm. Susan is a recognized leader in employment law by International Employment Lawyer, The Daily Journal, Legal 500 PLC and is a Chambers-ranked attorney.


Robin Samuel is a partner in the Employment Practice Group of Baker McKenzie's Los Angeles office. Robin helps clients manage and resolve local and cross-border employment issues, whether through counseling or litigation. He advises clients on virtually all aspects of the employment relationship, including hiring and firing, wage and hour, discrimination, harassment, contract disputes, restrictive covenants, employee raiding, and trade secret matters. Clients trust Robin to handle their most sensitive and complex employment issues.


Caroline Burnett joined Baker McKenzie in March 2016 and is a senior knowledge lawyer for the North America Employment & Compensation Practice Group in San Francisco. Caroline is responsible for knowledge management for over 100 lawyers in the Firm's North America offices. She is focused on enhancing technical standards and improving efficiency, as well as producing pragmatic and commercially minded thought leadership for the Firm's clients. Before joining Baker McKenzie, Caroline spent a decade in private practice.

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