New Jersey Executive Order Mandates Safety Measures for All Employers

Author: Robert S. Teachout, XpertHR Legal Editor

October 30, 2020

Citing the recent increase in reported COVID-19 cases in the state, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has issued a new executive order mandating that all employers comply with health and safety standards, such as wearing face masks, to protect employees from the coronavirus. Executive Order 192 also imposes steep penalties for violations.

Under the executive order, beginning on November 5, all New Jersey employers that require or permit all or some of their employees to be present at a worksite must comply with certain health and safety protocols, including:

  • Conducting daily health checks of employees;
  • Maintaining at least six feet of distance between employees;
  • Requiring employees to wear face masks with limited exceptions;
  • Making face masks and sanitization materials available to employees at the employer's expense;
  • Excluding from the workplace employees who appear to have COVID-19 symptoms; and
  • Notifying all employees of any known exposure to COVID-19 at the worksite, while maintaining the confidentiality of any infected employee.

The order also permits employers to deny entry to any employee or visitor who declines to wear a face mask, unless doing so would violate a federal or state law. An employer also must offer a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act or New Jersey Law Against Discrimination when an employee or customer declines to wear a mask due to a disability.

Certain positions (such as first responders, health care personnel and law enforcement) have a limited exclusion when the order's protocols interfere with the discharge of operational duties, as do religious institutions if following the standards would prohibit the free exercise of religion.

Penalties for noncompliance include:

  • Fines up to $1,000;
  • Up to six months in prison; and
  • Potential closure of a worksite.

Michele Siekerka, president and CEO of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, criticized the new order, saying it overlooks that most businesses already have safeguards in place and are concerned about the safety of their workers. She called on the governor and legislature to pause from issuing any further mandates.

"Our policymakers must strike a better balance toward trying to help our employers by prioritizing legislation for liability protections supporting those businesses that are doing the right thing already." said Siekerka.