With the spike in reported COVID-19 cases in Texas, counties have started to re-impose previous safety measures. As a result, many of the requirements of the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” orders from earlier this year have come back into effect for a second time – highlighting the continuing challenge of COVID-19 workplace compliance.
On the morning of June 19, 2020, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins issued a Supplemental Order on Continuing Requirements, which went into effect that night at 11:59 p.m. The order requires all commercial businesses that provide goods or services directly to the public to require all of their employees and visitors to wear a face covering. The face covering requirement is part of a health and safety policy that each business operating in the county must now develop and implement. The order also states that each business’s health and safety policy may also include other mitigating measures such as temperature checks and health screenings. Businesses operating in Dallas must post their health and safety policies in a location sufficient to provide notice to employees and visitors of its requirements. Businesses that fail to comply with the order face a fine of up to $500 per violation.
Over the past couple of weeks, Bexar County (San Antonio), El Paso County, Harris County (Houston), Tarrant County (Fort Worth), and Travis County (Austin), among others, all passed similar face covering orders applicable to businesses operating in their respective counties. Further details about the Houston order can be found here. The orders are not uniform and each gives businesses deadlines to comply. The orders also remain in effect for varying lengths of time. The effective and expiration dates for each county’s order are as follows:
|June 17, 2020 at 12:01 p.m.
|June 30, 2020 at 11:59 p.m.
|June 19, 2020 at 11:59 p.m.
|August 4, 2020 at 11:59 p.m.
|El Paso County
|June 21, 2020 at 12:01 a.m.
|June 22, 2020 at 12:01 a.m.
|June 30, 2020 at 11:59 p.m.
|June 18, 2020 at 11:59 p.m.
|August 15, 2020 at 11:59 p.m.
|June 26, 2020 at 6:00 p.m.
|August 3, 2020 at 6:00 a.m.
The fines for noncompliance also vary between the counties. Businesses operating in Dallas and El Paso Counties face fines up to $500 per violation, while businesses in Bexar, Harris, Tarrant, and Travis Counties all face per violation fines up to $1,000 for noncompliance. To complicate matters even more, as of now, not all counties in Texas intend to impose face covering requirements for businesses.
Unfortunately, this piecemeal approach is not unique to Texas. To stay compliant, businesses across the United States must keep an eye on the continually changing COVID-19-related requirements issued by city, county, and state governments. As the COVID-19 outbreak continues, health and safety requirements will continue to evolve and will likely continue to be issued on a piecemeal basis. As a result, businesses may face different requirements across the states (or even the cities) in which they operate.
This rapid redeployment of workplace restrictions highlights one the biggest risks facing employers as COVID-19 continues to spread across the United States. Employers must begin preparing to adjust their workplaces on short notice – less than 24 hours in Dallas in this case – to comply with critical health and safety edicts. Doing so will require both advanced planning and close coordination with counsel to remain abreast of these rapid (and sometimes inconsistent) developments.
Businesses should consult legal counsel to ensure compliance with state and local requirements.