New Jersey Employers: COVID-19 Policy Updates to More Closely Align with New York, Connecticut and the Rest of the Country
Earlier this month Governor Murphy declared an end to New Jersey’s public health emergency by signing a new reopening bill which is scheduled to take full effect in 18 days. The Governor’s action comes just weeks after he signed two executive orders which significantly curtailed the state’s mask and social distancing orders but stopped short of fully adopting recent CDC guidance.
Changes in CDC Guidance
As our readers will recall the first major shift towards reopening workplaces came with the CDC’s May 13th guidance (click here) advising that fully vaccinated people could forgo masks “in any setting,” with a few exceptions. New York, Connecticut and most other states were quick to adopt these new CDC guidelines, but New Jersey took a wait and see approach. Now, with this week’s most recent action by New Jersey’s Governor, the state’s reopening guidance are more closely aligned with New York, Connecticut, and the majority of the states.
Additionally, like New York and Connecticut, New Jersey has also adopted guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which permits employers to ask for employee vaccination status. BUT, remember, to ensure employers do not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers should not ask follow-up questions which could be an inappropriate inquiry into an employee’s health or disability status. In other words, employers should not inquire into why a health professional has determined the employee cannot be vaccinated. It is important for employers to remember, as with other information of this type, employers should make sure an employee’s vaccination record are kept confidential, and stored separately from the employee’s personnel file.
Two additional points worthy of mention for New Jersey employers include the Governor’s recent Executive Order 243 rescinding (i) the requirement that employers emphasize telework to the maximum extent possible, and (ii) the need for employers to conduct health screenings for employees as they enter work and to provide PPE to employees at work.
It is important for New Jersey employers, as well as employers across the country, to remember you are permitted to continue to require masking and social distancing protocols at your place of business regardless of employee, guest and customer vaccination status. At the end of the day, it is up to you to decide.
The subject matter of COVID-19 related posts is often very technical. It is also an evolving area of law and very fact specific. Our goal here is to simply alert you to some of the key issues involved. We urge you to seek competent legal counsel before applying these ideas to your specific situation. Since March 2020, we have had a team of attorneys focusing on COVID-19 related developments and they continue to stand ready to help you with any issues involving the pandemic. If we can be of assistance in this area, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 203.454.0560.