August 11, 2020

Volume X, Number 224

August 11, 2020

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August 10, 2020

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Massachusetts Announces Four-Phase Reopening Approach and Mandatory Workplace Safety Standards

On May 11, 2020, Massachusetts Gov. Baker announced a four-phase approach to reopening the Massachusetts economy in light of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Four-Phase Reopening

The phased reopening is based on public health guidance, and is intended to allow certain businesses, services, and activities to resume, while aiming to protect public health and limit a resurgence of new COVID-19 cases.

  • Phase One, the “Start” Phase, will allow industries with little face-to-face interactions to resume operations with severe restrictions.

  • Phase Two, the “Cautious” Phase, will allow industries with more face-to-face interactions to resume operations, but with significant restrictions such as capacity limits.

  • Phase Three, the “Vigilant” Phase, will allow for a loosening of some restrictions and conditions contained in the first two phases, if public health data is trending in the right direction.

  • Phase Four, the “New Normal” Phase, enables resumption of activities under the “new normal” framework, assuming the development of appropriate therapy treatments and/or vaccines.

The prospective length of each phase is currently unclear, as progression to the next phase is dependent on satisfying public health metrics. To the extent those metrics fall below certain thresholds, it could result in a reversion to a prior phase.

Mandatory Workplace Safety Standards

In conjunction with the announcement of the four-phase reopening, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health published Mandatory Safety Standards for Workplaces to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission as employees and customers return to workplaces. These safety standards are applicable to all sectors and industries that will be open in Phase One. 

The Mandatory Workplace Safety Standards include the following elements:

Social Distancing

  • All persons, including employees, customers, and vendors should remain at least six feet apart to the greatest extent possible, both inside and outside workplaces.

  • Provide signage to promote safe social distancing.

  • Require face coverings/masks for all employees.

Hygiene

  • Provide hand washing capabilities throughout the workplace.

  • Ensure frequent hand washing by employees and adequate supplies to do so.

  • Provide regular sanitization of high touch areas, such as workstations, equipment, screens, doorknobs, and restrooms throughout the work site.

Staffing and Operations

  • Provide training for employees regarding social distancing and hygiene protocols.

  • Employees who are displaying COVID-19-like symptoms should not report to work.

  • Establish a plan for employees who become ill at work, and a return-to-work plan.

Cleaning and Disinfecting

  • Establish and maintain cleaning protocols specific to the business.

  • When an active employee is diagnosed with COVID-19, cleaning and disinfecting must be performed.

  • Disinfection of common surfaces must take place at intervals appropriate for the workplace.

In addition to these Mandatory Standards, which apply to all workplaces, sector-specific safety protocols and best practices will be forthcoming.

Internet/Phone Sales

The announcement of the four-phase reopening comes on the heels of guidance published on May 5, 2020, allowing certain non-essential Massachusetts businesses, such as flower shops and car dealerships, to bring back employees for Internet/phone sales only. Under the May 5 Guidance, facilities must remain closed to the public, employees may only be engaged in packaging and delivery/shipping of phone and online orders (not the manufacturing of products), employees must wear face coverings while on-site, and employers are directed to stagger shifts to help ensure social distancing. Any deliveries must be “no contact”; that is, items must be left in mailboxes, mailrooms, garages, lobbies, at doorstep, or similar no-contact drop-off points.

©2020 Greenberg Traurig, LLP. All rights reserved. National Law Review, Volume X, Number 135

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About this Author

Amanda L. Carney Labor & Employment Litigation Attorney Greenberg Traurig Boston, MA
Associate

Amanda L. Carney represents clients in a broad range of commercial litigation and labor and employment matters, including claims involving discrimination, harassment and retaliation. She is experienced with handling matters in state, federal, and appeals court, and before the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. She also assists clients with conducting internal investigations involving employee misconduct. Amanda provides clients with day-to-day counseling on a variety of matters regarding wage and hour laws, internal investigations, employee handbooks/policies, and compliance...

617.310.5268
Jack Gearan, Greenberg Traurig Law Firm, Boston, Education, Labor and Employment Litigation Attorney
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Jack S. Gearan is a lawyer in the Boston office of Greenberg Traurig, LLP. He concentrates his practice in the areas of business litigation and employment law. Jack has experience in all phases of civil litigation including discovery, mediation, arbitration and trial.

Jack’s business litigation practice covers a variety of business torts, including misrepresentation, fraud, contract disputes, and claims under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 93A – the Massachusetts unfair trade practices statute.

Jack also regularly represents employers in all areas of employment law, including litigation of discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and non-compete cases, as well as numerous other personnel and workplace issues. Jack frequently represents employers in wage and hour class actions brought under the Massachusetts Wage Act, and nationwide collective actions under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

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Justin Keith, Greenberg Traurig Law Firm, Boston, Labor and Employment Litigation Attorney
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Justin F. Keith represents employers in all areas of labor and employment law—including litigation of discrimination, harassment and retaliation claims, reductions in force, and numerous other personnel and workplace issues—before state and federal agencies and in courts throughout the country

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Terence McCourt, Greenberg Traurig Law Firm, Boston, Labor and Employment Litigation Attorney
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Terence P. McCourt is Managing Shareholder of the Boston office and Chairman of its Labor & Employment Practice. He represents a broad range of organizations in all facets of management-side labor and employment law. During more than two decades of practice, Terry has gained a national reputation for his practical, solution-oriented approach to employment law issues.

With wide-ranging litigation experience, Terry handles diverse employment matters, including employment discrimination and wrongful termination cases in state and federal courts...

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Kelly M. Pesce Litigation Attorney Greenberg Traurig Boston, MA
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Kelly M. Pesce is a litigation attorney who represents employers in virtually all areas of labor and employment law before state and federal agencies and in courts throughout the country – including litigation of discrimination, harassment and retaliation claims, and numerous other personnel and workplace issues. She is experienced with wage and hour class actions brought under state law and nationwide collective actions under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Kelly also has deep experience with complex eDiscovery matters, and has been responsible for preservation, collection, review and...

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