Pennsylvania Requires Telework "When Possible" After COVID Cases Rise

Author: David B. Weisenfeld, XpertHR Legal Editor

July 20, 2020

Following a recent surge of COVID-19 cases, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has signed an executive order requiring all businesses to conduct their operations in whole, or in part, remotely through individual teleworking of their employees unless doing so is impossible.

Where telework is not viable, employees may conduct in-person business operations but only if their employers fully comply with the following state orders:

  • Building safety order (including cleaning and disinfecting protocols);
  • Worker safety order (including social distancing, temperature screens and implementing staggered work and stop times when practicable; and
  • Masking order requiring face coverings for employees and customers.

The only exceptions to the masking order are for:

  • Individuals who cannot wear a mask due to a medical condition (including respiratory issues or mental health conditions);
  • Employees for whom wearing a mask while working would create an unsafe condition in which to operate equipment, as determined by local, state or federal regulators or workplace safety guidelines; or
  • Individuals communicating or seeking to communicate with someone who is hearing impaired or has another disability where the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication.

Businesses that fail to comply could be subject to fines, closure or other applicable enforcement measures. Gov. Wolf issued the order in response to a spike of COVID-19 cases in Allegheny County, where Pittsburgh is located, along with additional select Pennsylvania counties.

"During the past week, we have seen an unsettling climb in new COVID-19 cases," he said. "When we hit our peak on April 9, we had nearly 2,000 new cases that day with other days' cases hovering around 1,000. Medical experts looking at the trajectory we are on now are projecting that this new surge could soon eclipse the April peak. With our rapid increases, we need to act now."

The state cited citizens ignoring mask-wearing requirements, out-of-state travel and a lack of national coordination regarding social distancing as reasons for the increased number of cases. The order also includes statewide mitigation efforts targeted at bars, restaurants and other social gatherings.