removing mask at work

Employers Get Flexibility to Forego Masks & Social Distancing

New Jersey employers with “non-public facing” indoor business operations are receiving the flexibility to allow workers to forego mask wearing and social distancing if employees can verify they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, Gov. Phil Murphy announced today.

This executive order ruling takes effect June 4 and follows Murphy’s announcement this past Monday that, beginning this Friday, “public facing” businesses, such as restaurants, retail spaces, personal care businesses, gyms, recreational and entertainment businesses, etc., can forego mask and social distancing requirements.

Commenting on the governor’s executive order, New Jersey Business & Industry Association President and CEO Michele Siekerka commented, “Providing employers the flexibility to allow vaccinated employees to forego masking and distancing in business and office settings is appropriate, as was recognized by CDC.

“Treating employers any different than public facing businesses only caused confusion, especially when employers in closed office-like settings can have better control of their work environment, as evidenced through their safety protocols over the better part of the past year.” Siekerka’s full statement can be found here.

Murphy said he is also rescinding part of executive order 107 that requires businesses and nonprofits to accommodate remote working arrangements and reduce onsite staff to the minimal number necessary.

“We are doing this to allow employers greater flexibility in bringing employees back to in-person work environments,” Murphy said. “We encourage all employers to do the right things for their specific workplaces. While we are rescinding some requirements, it doesn’t mean we don’t expect [employers] to be flexible and work with employees, particularly those juggling family obligations such as childcare.”

Additionally, it was announced today that group limits in childcare classes, which are currently capped at 15, will be returned to their normal regulated limits effective immediately.

“We know how critical access to childcare is for many working families, especially for working moms. Restoring these limits to pre-pandemic standards is an important piece in getting the economy back and working for more parents,” Murphy said.

While mostly all businesses can now go maskless and forego social distancing measures for vaccinated employees, state employees working in state offices and other worksites still must follow the former health guidelines.

Based on Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines, other workplaces and locations in New Jersey that will still require masking, include:

  • Healthcare settings and long-term care facilities
  • Correctional facilities
  • Homeless shelters
  • On an airplane, bus or train, or other forms of public transit
  • In airports, bus, and train stations, and other transit hubs
  • Public facing state offices, (ex. Motor Vehicle Commission agencies)
  • Worksites that are closed to the public, including warehousing and manufacturing facilities

Additionally, Murphy said on Monday that lifting the mask mandate will not extend to childcare centers and facilities; youth summer camps; public, private and parochial preschool program premises and elementary and secondary schools including charter and renaissance schools.

In other news, the New Jersey Department of Education released plans this past Monday for disbursing more than $2.76 billion in federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds, which were made available through the President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan.

“There is no doubt that the past year has taken a toll on educational communities,” Murphy said. “Through this partnership with the federal government, we are going to work to ensure that every [school] district has the resources it needs to fully get back to where it should be. This includes making sure that every school reopens for all in-person instruction for the 2021/2022 academic year.”

Finally, this coming Friday is the last day small businesses could apply for personal protective equipment (PPE) discounts of up to 70% under the New Jersey Economic Development Authority’s New Jersey Small and Micro Business PPE Access program. To date, the program has helped 13,000 small employers save more than $11 million on PPE purchases.

To access more business news, visit NJB News Now.

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