New Jersey Imposes COVID-19 Standards on Workplaces
As the ongoing pandemic deepens, states across the country continue to struggle to contain the virus and protect their citizens. On October 28, 2020, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy issued yet another Executive Order (Executive Order No. 192) addressing the crisis, this time setting out specific safety rules for workplaces with employees in attendance.
The new rules are based on well-known Centers for Disease Control (CDC) non-binding guidance. The Order also instructs the New Jersey Department of Health (DOH) and New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (DOL) on the investigation and enforcement of violations.
Effective at 6 a.m. November 5, 2020, virtually all public and private employers who require or allow employees to be physically present at a worksite must:
- Require that individuals maintain at least six feet of distance from one another to the maximum extent possible and, where that is not feasible, install physical barriers between workstations where possible and ensure that each employee wears a face covering.
- Require all employees, customers, visitors, and any other individuals to wear a mask, such as a cloth face covering or disposable mask, while on the premises. Masks are not required for those under two years of age or when impracticable, such as when an individual is eating or drinking. Note: masking requirements are different in school settings under Executive Order 175 (2020), which can be found here.
- Employees. Employees may remove masks when they are at their workspaces more than six feet from others or when alone in a walled office. Employers must provide masks to employees. Employers may deny access to the worksite to employees who decline to wear a face covering except as otherwise required by state or federal law (such as those who may require a medical accommodation).
- Customers or Visitors. Employers may deny entry to those without masks except when doing so would violate state or federal law. Employers may be required to provide customers or visitors who cannot wear a mask due to a disability with services via a reasonable accommodation (such as curbside service) unless such accommodation would pose an undue hardship on operations.
- Provide sanitization materials such as hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes to employees, customers, and visitors.
- Ensure employees practice regular hand hygiene and provide break time for same.
- Routinely clean and disinfect all high-touch areas in accordance with DOH and CDC guidelines.
- Conduct daily health checks of employees, such as temperature screenings or self-assessment checklists.
- Immediately separate and send home employees who appear to have COVID-19 symptoms.
- Promptly notify all employees of any known exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace.
- Clean and disinfect workplace when an employee has been diagnosed with COVID-19.
- Continue to follow guidelines and directives issues by the DOH, CDC, and OSHA, as applicable.
There are exceptions for the above requirements when they interfere with the duties of certain essential personnel including, for example, first responders, health care personnel, and law enforcement. As to covered employers, the Order exempts only the federal government and religious institutions for whom compliance would prohibit the free exercise of religion.
DOH and DOL will collaborate on enforcement. The agencies will (1) establish an intake method for complaints of violations; (2) create a process for the investigation and evaluation of complaints, which may include employee and employer interviews; and (3) establish a process to address compliance deficiencies which, at a minimum, will include giving employers the opportunity to correct those deficiencies. Workplace investigations may include inspections and, where necessary, the issuance of subpoenas. The DOH and DOL will coordinate their efforts with federal agencies, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
The DOL will also provide compliance and safety training and will develop notices and materials to inform workers of their rights and obligations.\
Penalties for violation of the Executive Order may be significant and include the closure of a business, as well as disorderly persons charges.
Employers must comply with the Order by November 5, 2020. Employers should also be on the lookout for guidance from the DOH and DOL on complaint procedures, investigations, and enforcement guidelines.
Ballard Spahr’s Labor and Employment attorneys are well-versed in the New Jersey requirements for employers related to COVID-19 and follow developments on the same in New Jersey and many other states. Please contact us if we can assist you in understanding your obligations as a New Jersey employer.
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