In an effort to combat the recent rise in COVID-19 cases in New Jersey, on October 28, 2020, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed Executive Order 192, requiring certain health and safety standards to protect New Jersey’s workers during the pandemic. Effective November 5, 2020, the new regulations require every business, non-profit and governmental or educational entity to implement certain protocols to protect employees, customers, and all others who come into physical contact with its operations. Keep in mind, if you do contract COVID-19 and are considered an essential worker in New Jersey, you may eligible for workers’ compensation without having to prove where you contracted the virus.
Masking requirements for employees
- Employers may permit employees to remove face masks when the employees are situated at their workstations and are more than six feet from other individuals at the workplace, or when an individual is alone in the office.
- Employers must make face masks available to employees (at the expense of the employer).
- Employers may deny entry to the worksite to any employee who declines to wear a face mask, except when doing so would violate state or federal law. Employers are expressly permitted to require employees to produce medical documentation supporting claims that they are unable to wear a face mask because of a disability. Consistent with the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and/or New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (“NJLAD”), employers may be required to engage in the interactive process to determine if a reasonable accommodation can be provided to the employee.
Masking requirements for customers and visitors
Employers may deny entry to the worksite to any customer or visitor who declines to wear a face mask, except when doing so would violate state or federal law. The employer may be required to provide reasonable accommodations for a customer or visitor who declines to wear a mask due to a disability. In other words, customers who refuse to wear a mask cannot be required to produce medical proof that they are unable to wear a mask. However, they may be denied entry if a reasonable accommodation can be provided (i.e. deliver the products purchased to their car).
These new regulations from EO-192 also require the following:
- Six feet of distance between individuals at a worksite to the maximum extent possible. When not possible, employers have a duty to ensure masks and physical barriers are provided.
- Employers must make hand sanitizer available at their expense to employees and customers.
- Employers need to ensure there are adequate handwashing facilities and ensure employees have adequate break time to do so.
- Employers must routinely clean and disinfect high-touch areas.
- Employers should conduct daily health checks (i.e. temperature screenings, visual symptom checking, self-assessment checklists, etc.) and immediately send home employees with symptoms of COVID-19.
- Employers should promptly notify employees of all known exposures of COVID-19 at the worksite.
What does the law say about workers’ compensation for COVID-19?
A previous bill was signed into law earlier in 2020 that makes it easier for anyone deemed an essential employee in New Jersey to file for workers’ compensation benefits. For most types of workers’ compensation claims, the worker must prove that the injury or illness was directly related to the job. The new law, during the pandemic, presumes the essential employee’s COVID-19 illness is related to work. The employer would need to prove, with a preponderance of evidence, that the employee did not contract the virus at work.
If you are concerned that your employer is acted negligently with regard to your health and safety, we can help. If you are considered an essential employee in New Jersey and contracted COVID-19, you may be eligible to recover lost wages, medical bills, and other expenses. At Brandon J Broderick, Attorney at Law, we offer a free consultation. One of our trusted team members will listen to your story, learn about your case, and can advise you next steps. Many of our clients feel a sense of relief once they make that first phone call. Get in touch today or call us at 201-514-6351.