Gov. Murphy signs Executive Order; says it will protect workforce during pandemic

Gov. Phil Murphy has signed Executive Order No. 192 which he said will provide mandatory health and safety standards to protect all of New Jersey’s workers at work during the ongoing 2020 coronavirus pandemic.

Murphy signed the order on Oct. 28, according to a press release from his office.

A representative of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association took issue with certain aspects of the order shortly after Murphy’s action was announced.

“Since the start of the pandemic, New Jersey workers across all sectors have risen to the challenges imposed by COVID-19,” Murphy was quoted as saying in the press release.

“Yet, the federal government has failed to provide all workers the proper standards and protections they deserve. Today’s executive order closes that gap to help ensure the health and safety of our workforce during this unprecedented time,” the governor said.

“With today’s action, New Jersey becomes the only state to leverage its public sector-only jurisdiction to protect workers in the private sector from COVID-19. We now have the essential tools and resources we need to ensure businesses are operating safely, and our economy is moving forward,” Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo said.

“By protecting New Jerseyans in the workplace, we are lessening the health risks to families and communities. As more people return to work, the high standards we have set today will be critical in maintaining our public health,” Asaro-Angelo said.

Executive Order No. 192 mandates that as of 6 a.m. Nov. 5, all employers, at minimum, must require individuals at a worksite to maintain at least 6 feet of distance from others to the maximum extent possible and require employees and visitors to wear masks when entering the worksite, subject to certain limited exceptions, according to the press release.

Other protocols require employers to:

• Provide approved sanitization materials to employees and visitors at no cost to those individuals;

• Ensure that employees practice hand hygiene and provide sufficient break time for that purpose;

• Routinely clean and disinfect all high-touch areas in accordance with Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines;

• Conduct daily health checks, such as temperature screenings, visual symptom checking, self-assessment checklists, and/or health questionnaires, prior to each shift, consistent with CDC guidance;

• Exclude sick employees from the workplace and follow requirements of applicable leave laws;

• Promptly notify employees of any known exposure to COVID-19 at the worksite.

New Jersey Business and Industry Association President and CEO Michele Siekerka responded to Executive Order No. 192 by saying, “While we have always shared Gov. Murphy’s priority to establish workplaces that follow federal safety guidelines, today’s directive again makes New Jersey an outlier in terms of mandates – without any balance whatsoever for the concerns of employers.

“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 – in addition to bringing them more sorely needed resources.

“Sadly, we heard no such balance from Gov. Murphy today. We only heard about applying more financial burdens on the same job creators who simultaneously have many of the greatest capacity restrictions in the nation,” she said.

“Further, most businesses already have protective safeguards in place and are critically concerned about safeguarding their workforce and their workplaces.

“Mechanisms already exist to call out bad actors and hold them accountable. There is no need to now mandate additional costs on the good actors through unnecessary policy.

“We once again urge Gov. Murphy and our policymakers to put a pause on any further mandates, recognizing that New Jersey’s business climate was already consistently ranked among the worst in the nation pre-COVID because of the excessive cost of doing business. Further mandates only exacerbate that,” Siekerka said.