Last week the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) issued an Order (see below) increasing the requirements for wearing masks. In addition, Governor Wolf recommended late Thursday afternoon that anyone traveling to 15 identified states (see list below) self-quarantine for 14-days upon returning home to Pennsylvania.
Identified States: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah
As a business owner and employer why does this matter?
Litigation has been filed against employers failing to comply with safety regulations. Just recently in Nevada employee unions filed suit against casinos seeking injunctive relief due to the casinos’ failure to comply with COVID-19 regulations. (See attached Nevada Summary.) Even in those states which have granted businesses immunity from COVID-19 civil liability claims, an exception exists for actions which represent gross negligence and willful misconduct.
Mask Order Versus Travel Self-Quarantine Recommendation – Points To Consider.
Order: The Secretary of Health’s mask directive is an Order and not a recommendation. An employer’s failure to enforce this Order could be characterized as willful misconduct or gross negligence subjecting the employer to potential liability.
Recommendation: The travel recommendation, based on the limited information available, was not specifically directed to employers, but rather to the individuals traveling. A recommendation, unlike an order, is not a requirement but it should not be ignored. A recommendation provides flexibility to achieve the stated objective being mitigation of potential spread of the virus after travel
Mask Order: This is an Order and should be fully implemented by an Employer.
Travel recommendation: An employer should implement a travel policy. The policy should be tailored to the proposed travel plan, type of business, and the employee’s typical interaction with other employees and potential customers. The policy should be commercially reasonable and promote safety. For example, if self-quarantine is not feasible a heightened monitoring policy of the employee upon their return to the workplace in combination with modifications to their daily routine enhancing the ability to physically distance are potentially reasonable accommodations.
The continual barrage of orders and recommendations has created a challenging environment for business owners thus making it difficult to promote employees’ safety as well as continuing to conduct business in a manner that preserves profitability and jobs. We encourage you to remain proactive. A business owner should adapt to the changing circumstances. Maiello, Brungo & Maiello, LLP can assist you with drafting new policies or modify existing policies quickly and cost-effectively. Employers with additional questions should contact either Lawrence Maiello firstname.lastname@example.org or John H. Prorok email@example.com of Maiello, Brungo & Maiello, LLP’s Business Law Team.