Boo! The New Executive Order: Is It A Trick Or Treat?

Don’t go to Murphy’s house for Halloween this year — he’s handing out Executive Orders. Great way to get your house egged Phil!

One of our avid readers writes in and says:

Hey guys, I’m in the middle of getting ready for our company virtual Halloween party and I heard that Governor Murphy just issued a new Executive Order. Please tell me he’s not canceling Halloween. For the first time ever I think I’m going to win the most original and funniest custom contests at the office. Get this—I’m going as a surgeon. I’ve got a mask and gloves and everything. Skyler from HR is going as my nurse. Who knows, maybe she wants to see how I operate. Get it? What’s this new EO all about? …Bob from Accounting.

Calm down Bob. Halloween is still on, but more on that later.

On October 28, Governor Murphy, looking to further improve his popularity with the business community, issued Executive Order 192, containing a comprehensive list of now mandatory protocols for every employer that requires or permits its workforce, whether in part or as a whole, to be physically present. That means that if you have just a few employees who go in voluntarily or the whole darn band, these new rules still apply.  Much of the EO will sound familiar and consistent with protocols previously recommended and blabbed about for the last half-year. But now, they’re required. Here are the highlights: Starting at 6:00 am on November 5 (Why? No clue) employers must (italics are direct quotes) do the following:

  • Require 6 ft between folks in meetings, common areas, bathrooms and when entering and exiting the workplace whenever possible, and when not practical, install barriers;
  • Provide masks at the employer’s expense and require them to be warned when employees are not in a walled office or cubicle;
  • Provide hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol or Jim Beam) and wipes;
  • Ensure that employees practice regular hand hygiene [we pause here to ponder how employers will enforce this one as we have flashbacks to our school days in the 1960s when mandatory handwashing before lunch was enforced by our sadistic caring teachers]; 
  • Prior to each shift, conduct daily health checks of employees such as temperature screenings, visual symptom checking, self-assessment checklists, and/or health questionnaires consistent with CDC guidance;
  • Promptly notify all employees of any known exposure to COVID-19 at the worksite;
  • Clean and disinfect in accordance with CDC guidance if there is a positive case;
  • Wipe down frequently touched surfaces regularly with the virus killing stuff (which we will no doubt later learn causes other fatal diseases).

The ink wasn’t dry on this EO when we were asked whether the mandatory screening provision requires employers to do all the things listed. We are comfortable that such as means employers need to implement some but not necessarily all of the protocols and not necessarily exactly as indicated. 

It is important to recognize that these protocols are no longer suggestions, they are enforceable requirements. And the EO includes some serious enforcement mechanisms, including giving the Department of Labor authority to establish a new employee complaint procedure, and the Department of Health the ability to shut down a business that does not comply. If that is not enough, the EO allows violations to be treated as a disorderly conduct criminal offense punishable by $1,000 fines and 6 months in jail. That’s no treat Phil!  So if you want to stay out of hot water, drag those employees to the sink and hold their hands under the hot water!

As for the company’s virtual Halloween party Bob, we have a few tips. Make sure your employees check out Good Housekeeping’s(that’s right, we read it and aren’t afraid to say so) 2020 list of costumes that cross the line. In keeping with this year’s sanitary theme, let everyone know to keep those costumes clean, at least from the waist up. And whatever you do, be sure not to invite Jeffrey Toobin!

Happy Halloween!!

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