New Jersey Governor Issues Executive Order Addressing COVID-19 Health and Safety Requirements for Employers
On October 28, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy issued an Executive Order addressing health and safety requirements for New Jersey employers that require or permit their workers to be physically present in the office. The Order supplements other guidance that was previously issued for certain industries – including retail, gyms and fitness centers, and child care.
Below is a brief summary of what New Jersey employers need to know about the Order.
Minimum Health and Safety Protocols.
Beginning on Thursday, November 5, all employers that require or permit their workers to be physically present in the office to perform work must, at minimum, abide by the following requirements:
Physical Distancing – Employers must require that individuals maintain at least six feet of distance from one another to the maximum extent possible, including but not limited to during meetings, in common areas such as restrooms and breakrooms, and when individuals are entering and exiting the workplace. If the nature of the work does not allow six feet of distance to be maintained, employers must ensure that employees wear face coverings and install physical barriers whenever possible.
Face Coverings – Employers must require employees, visitors, and customers two years of age and older to wear face coverings, except when: (1) employees are at their workstations and are more than six feet apart from other individuals, (2) individuals are alone in a walled office, or (3) doing so is impracticable due to the nature of the business. Employers must provide face coverings at no cost to employees. The Order also requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations to employees, customers, and visitors who cannot wear a mask because of a disability.
Sanitation Materials – Employers must provide sanitation materials – such as hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol and sanitizing wipes that are approved by the EPA for COVID-19 – at no cost to employees, customers, and visitors.
Hand Hygiene – Employers must ensure that employees practice regular hand hygiene and provide employees with: (1) break times for repeated handwashing throughout the workday, and (2) access to adequate hand washing facilities.
Cleaning – Employers must clean and disinfect all high-touch areas in accordance with DOH and CDC guidelines.
Daily Health Checks – Prior to each shift, employers must conduct daily health checks of employees, such as temperature screenings, visual symptom checking, self-assessment checklists, and/or health questionnaires. The Order does not explicitly require health checks for customers and visitors.
COVID-19 Cases in the Workplace – Employers must immediately separate and send home employees who appear to have symptoms consistent with COVID-19. Employers must also: (1) promptly notify all employees of any known exposure to COVID-19 at the worksite in accordance with the confidentiality requirements under Americans with Disabilities Act and other applicable law, and (2) clean and disinfect the worksite in accordance with CDC guidelines.
Penalties for Noncompliance.
The Order authorizes the Commissioner of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development to establish a mechanism to receive and investigate complaints of noncompliance with the Order. Penalties for violations include imprisonment for up to six months, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. The Order also empowers the Commissioner to order businesses to close in the event of noncompliance.
Despite these potential penalties, the Order contains a couple of protections for employers. First, employers must be provided with an opportunity to correct alleged or confirmed violations. The Order also expressly states that it does not create a private right of action by employees for violation of the Order.