Workplace Safety Considerations for Employers in Anticipation of lifting Stay-At-Home Restrictions

April 30, 2020


Many employers deemed essential during the current COVID-19 pandemic have remained fully operational and working on-site, with strict adherence to new safety protocols. Healthcare, the construction industry and the food supply chain, to name but a few, have had to adapt quickly to fully enforce existing and evolving safety directives. Other industries and professions, both essential and nonessential, have implemented remote work policies. These employers await the time when states lift stay-at-home orders and when nonessential businesses may open. Employers should begin planning now for the eventual reopening of businesses and workplaces.

Connecticut’s Governor reiterated today that May 20th remains an important date with respect to the start of a phased approach to reopening Connecticut, provided important criteria are met, including a 14-day decline in COVID-19 hospitalizations in Connecticut, increased availability of testing, sufficient contact tracing capacity, adequate PPE and healthcare capacity, protection of vulnerable populations, and physical distancing regulations. New York potentially may look at different plans for up-state vs New York City. Massachusetts’ stay-at-home orders remain in effect until at least May 17th while its Advisory Board develops a reopening plan. A number of Governors of East Coast states such as Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, have indicated they want to pursue a collaborative regional approach to reopening.

This month President Trump unveiled Guidelines for Opening Up America Again. This plan is intended to provide guidance to state officials as they work on developing their specific reopening plans.  The federal guidelines are not orders; states retain the power to determine their own reopening plans.


While much remains undetermined at this point, what is clear from the reopening and back-to-work discussion is that the return to “business as usual” will be anything but the “usual” way of conducting business. There are a number of common considerations across state and federal guidelines which proactive employers should start thinking about now and for which planning should be on going.

  • Discussions to date across all sectors anticipate a phased reopening, both in terms of the timing of reopening of specific businesses and the timeline for when each business can become fully staffed on site. Employers should plan for a probable continuation of some remote workforce, while phasing in on-site operations. Plans to staff up must be carefully considered so that employees are treated similarly across similar job functions.

  • Social distancing at the workplace, consistent with applicable guidelines, will be the norm for the foreseeable future as workplaces staff up. Employers should review their physical space requirements now so that any necessary reconfiguration of employee work areas, common areas, equipment rooms, and the like can be planned in advance of reopening. Employers should carefully consider the possible need to provide single use equipment, such as separate phones, to those employees who previously shared such equipment. Where this is not possible, strict cleaning and disinfectant protocols should be implemented. Employers should have a plan in place to purchase the additional cleaning supplies or any personal protective equipment that may be needed in advance of reopening. Common areas where numbers of employees may congregate may need to be closed or restricted in use so that social distancing can be maintained.

  • Heightened workplace safety protocols and practices should be developed now and updated as states publish their reopening plans, so that the employer will be in a position to quickly reopen. These safety protocol and practices should be in writing and given to each employee. Areas which may need to be covered in these protocols include:

    • Importance of social distancing policies and clear guidelines regarding same;

    • Temperature checks and any other testing requirements pursuant to applicable state and local mandates;

    • Wearing of masks or other required protective equipment;

    • Cleaning and sanitation procedures;

    • Policies with respect to on-site visitors, deliveries, clients and customers;

    • Updated policies concerning remote work, staggered shifts;

    • Reporting and handling illness and stay-at-home policies for those experiencing virus-related symptoms, in accordance with the latest CDC and other medical guidelines;

    • Business travel restrictions.

  • State reopening plans may require employers to undertake some plan of temperature checks and symptom monitoring. For employers in the Tri-State Region, no specific guidelines on these issues have been published by the states in connection with reopening of businesses. It is important for employers who may be required to put some plans in place with respect to these issues to ensure that workplace privacy laws are strictly adhered to with respect to data collection, record storage, disclosure of information, protection of employee information and medical records, and limiting of access to employee medical information and records. Return-to-work policies, requirements, and guidelines do not override workplace privacy laws.

This paper is intended to provide general information and does not constitute the providing of legal advice.  Readers should consult with legal counsel for advice specific to their particular requirements and situations.   

The attorneys of Garcia & Milas are available to answer your COVID-19 related questions and to assist you in preparing updated policies and procedures to address your business return-to-work issues.