Stringent New Jersey Employer Protocols to Combat COVID-19 Mandatory on November 5
Posted October 29, 2020
Citing a recent surge in COVID-19 infections throughout New Jersey, Governor Murphy issued Executive Order 192 on October 28, 2020 (the “Executive Order”) effective as of 6:00am, Thursday, November 5, 2020. The Executive Order requires public and private workplaces to adhere to certain health and safety protocols, and creates a system for employees to report an employer’s failure to observe the new mandates.
With very specific exceptions, public and private employers must now:
- Take measures to ensure that employees maintain six feet of distance to the maximum extent possible, including during meetings.
- Require all “employees, customers, visitors and other individuals entering the worksite” to wear cloth or disposable masks at all times while at the workplace.
- Provide masks for employees at the employer’s expense.
- Provide sanitization materials at the workplace including hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes.
- Routinely clean and disinfect all “high-touch areas” throughout the workplace.
- Conduct “health checks” of all employees on a daily basis, including, requiring temperature screenings and health questionnaires.
Several other new rules require employers to notify other employees of any known COVID-19 cases, and take active measures to “separate and send home employees” who appear to have symptoms of the virus.
In addition to making previously recommended protocols now law, the Executive Order creates a mechanism for employees to blow the whistle on employers not adhering to the new rules. The Department of Labor and Workforce Development (the “DOL”) will be creating an “intake mechanism” to accept employee complaints and refer those complaints to licensing and regulating agencies. The DOL is also authorized to interview employers and employees regarding the substance of these complaints. If an employer is subject to the Public Employees Occupational Safety and Health (PEOSH) Act, the Executive Order authorizes the DOL to direct those cases to PEOSH for investigation.
All New Jersey employers should immediately review and amend their relevant COVID-19 policies to ensure compliance with this Executive Order, and to mitigate the possibility of employee complaints and/or enforcement actions. Employers will need to establish protocols for health screenings and masks that not only satisfy the Executive Order, but also comply with other relevant employment laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act or the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. In addition, employers should prepare for requirements to be issued from the Department of Labor in the coming week regarding advising employees of their right to make complaints regarding violations of the Executive Order.
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