As previously discussed, on May 24, 2021, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced the lifting of COVID-19 mask requirements for certain employers, while continuing to require masks for others. In a point of frustration for many New Jersey employers, the requirements seemed to require masking and social distancing in an inconsistent manner, and imposed greater restrictions on employers that are not open to the public.
Governor Murphy revisited this decision shortly after, issuing Executive Order No. 243 (EO 243), providing much-anticipated changes and guidance for the rest of New Jersey’s employers.
Under EO 243, the following changes will take effect on June 4, 2021:
- Fully vaccinated employees, who have verified their vaccination status, can work without masks or social distancing. Importantly, employers must continue to require masks and social distancing for any employees who are not fully vaccinated and where the employees’ vaccination status cannot be confirmed.
- Employers can permit visitors to enter the worksite without masks or social distancing, regardless of vaccination status.
- Employers can require employees to report to the office. Effective June 4, Paragraphs 10 and 11 of Executive Order 107, which mandated employers to accommodate remote work wherever possible, are rescinded. For the first time since the start of the pandemic, employers are free to require their remote-capable employees to physically report to work.
All other workplace safety requirements set forth in Executive Order 192 remain in effect, including daily health checks. While employers are now free to adopt policies eliminating masks and social distancing, consistent with the above, they may also choose to keep mask and social distancing requirements in place. Employers cannot prohibit masks, nor can they retaliate against any employee for wearing a mask.
Employers should also be mindful that they might still need to provide accommodations, including remote work accommodations in appropriate cases, for medical and/or religious reasons.
If you have any questions about these new changes, or require assistance in any issues with your workforce, Reed Smith’s experienced Labor & Employment attorneys are available to assist.