Governor announces new Universal Business Guidelines
Masks mandated; employers required to ask travel questions
Governor Chris Sununu’s Economic Reopening Taskforce has revised its Universal Guidelines (“Revised Guidelines”) for all employers and employees to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Effective immediately, all employers within the state must follow these Revised Guidelines to remain open.
NHAR interprets these requirements to apply to agents and employees utilizing a brokerage office.
The new guidelines state that employees who are directly providing service to consumers or individuals must wear masks while providing such service. “Providing service” examples include explaining information to consumers or individuals in person, interacting with consumers by showing or providing products/services in person, registering individuals in person, or any other interaction where maintaining social distancing is difficult.
Further, the Revised Guidelines provide that “wearing only a face shield is prohibited as a substitute for a face covering/mask,” and similarly, “a plastic barrier shall not be substituted for a face covering/mask.”
Prior to entering the workplace, employees must now be asked if they are experiencing fatigue or gastrointestinal symptoms, or if they have traveled outside of New England. These questions are in addition to the originally required employee screening questions regarding fevers, respiratory symptoms, aches, changes in sense of taste or smell, and close contact with individuals who are suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19.
Employers must instruct employees to contact their healthcare provider to be tested and self-isolate (or self-quarantine) at home, if the employee develops symptoms or is in close contact with someone known to have COVID-19.
Employees who travel outside of New England – regardless of the mode of travel – should self-quarantine for 14 days from their return from travel. In light of this guidance, employers should consider what, if any, steps should be taken to modify existing vacation request procedures. For example, employers may decide to decline employee requests to use paid time off if the employee plans to travel outside of New England.
In addition, employers should consider application of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to any period of quarantine pursuant to the Revised Guidelines.
Employers are advised to encourage their employees who are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 according to the CDC, based on age or underlying health condition, to consider their individual risk factors and whether they are safer at home. Employees should be encouraged to discuss options with employers. Employers, however, must be careful not to discriminate against any employees based on age, disability, or any other protected category; and may not make any decisions in the workplace based on these categories