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COVID-19: Connecticut Governor Implements Mandatory Safe Workplace Rules

On April 7, 2020, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont issued Executive Order No. 7V. It is the governor’s most recent executive order designed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

The order directs “[e]very workplace in the State of Connecticut” to “take additional protective measures to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19” to individuals in the workplace. The governor delegated authority to prepare safe workplace rules to the Commissioner of Economic and Community Development (CECD).

The order dictates that the safe workplace rules are “mandatory” and “legally binding” for businesses currently permitted to operate in Connecticut. The rules, which are designed to promote social distancing, limit unnecessary person-to-person contact, promote cleaning practices, and promote compliance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommended steps and precautions, require:

  • “[a]ll essential employees capable of working from home [to work] from home”;
  • “[t]he elimination of all non-essential workplace travel”;
  • employers to take measures to limit employee-to-employee contact, including staggering shifts and break times, adding additional shifts, and providing time between work shifts to avoid overlap;
  • where possible, that workspaces be segmented into discrete zones and employees prohibited from sharing workspaces, materials, or equipment—including cell phones;
  • where possible, that break rooms be closed or access restricted utilizing a rotating schedule and that hand sanitizer and/or disposable wipes be made available in the break rooms;
  • employers to distribute summaries of health insurance processes and procedures to employees, and place posters encouraging proper hand hygiene “at the entrance to [the] workplace and in other workplace areas where they are likely to be seen”;
  • employers to “control access to external visitors, including:
    • prohibiting entry into the facility for non-essential visitors;
    • interviewing approved visitors about their current health condition and recent travel history; and
    • using hand sanitizer at point of entry to the facility”
  • employers to provide face masks when close personal contact is unavoidable;
  • where possible, that employers increase ventilation rates and increase the percentage of outdoor air that circulates into the system;
  • employers to take measures to eliminate transmission points (including by opening internal doors, installing non-touch disposal receptacles, engaging in frequent cleaning using U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-approved products, and providing disposable cleaning wipes to employees);
  • employees to attempt to take their temperatures before they go to work (and if they have temperatures above 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit to stay home); and
  • manufacturing employers to attempt to shutdown facilities when production is not needed.

The safe workplace rules contain specific provisions for construction site employers, including requiring such employers to clean portable bathrooms no less than every two days, provide adequate personal protective equipment, and reschedule work to maximize projects that can be completed outside.

In the event an employee is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19, the rules remind employers to abide by the CDC’s cleaning and disinfection recommendations. Finally, the rules provide guidelines for employees who have been exposed to or diagnosed with COVID-19:

  • Employees who have symptoms of or possible exposure to COVID-19 must not go to work and must notify their supervisors and consult with their healthcare providers.
  • All parties should follow the CDC-recommended steps or precautions and must not “return to work until the criteria to discontinue home isolation are met, in consultation with healthcare providers and state and local health departments.”
  • If an employee is confirmed to have COVID-19, employers must “inform fellow employees of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace while maintaining confidentiality as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act,” and other applicable law. “The fellow employees must then self-monitor for symptoms (i.e., fever, cough, or shortness of breath).”

Employers doing business in Connecticut may want to review the rules in their entirety. Where applicable, employers may want to review and abide by the CECD’s recent Essential Safe Store Rules, which took effect April 3, 2020, and include directives to maximize space between employees and customers.

Ogletree Deakins will continue to monitor and report on developments with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic and will post updates in the firm’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resource Center as additional information becomes available. 

© 2022, Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C., All Rights Reserved.National Law Review, Volume X, Number 99

About this Author

William C. Ruggiero, Ogletree Deakins, employee handbooks attorney, personnel policies lawyer

William C. Ruggiero is an associate in the Stamford office of Ogletree Deakins.  His practice is focused on defending employers against allegations of discrimination and retaliation in a variety of forums, including the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and state and federal courts.  He regularly counsels clients with respect to their employee handbooks and personnel policies to ensure compliance with state and federal law. He also represents employers during internal disciplinary and pre-arbitration...

John G. Stretton, Ogletree Deakins, noncompete confidentiality lawyer, wrongful termination attorney

John Stretton is a Shareholder in the Stamford office of Ogletree Deakins with nearly twenty years of experience. Clients view John as a resourceful counselor and aggressive litigator who never loses sight of a client's business objectives and need to establish value. In addition to providing proactive counseling and advice, John is frequently sought out to represent clients in discrimination, noncompete, confidentiality, wrongful termination, wage and overtime, breach of contract, unfair trade practices, intellectual property and complex litigation matters in state and...