Over the past few days, Governor Charlie Baker’s office has released guidance for employers on its phased reopening of the Massachusetts economy. The plan to reopen includes a carefully planned, four-phase approach which addresses which businesses can open when, and what requirements those businesses must follow in order to resume operations. Each phase will last a minimum of three weeks or longer, before transitioning to the next phase, though public health trends may require the state, or certain regions, to revert back to previous phases.
This article summarizes key dates and components of Phase 1 of the Reopening Plan for employers who are considering returning employees to the workplace or opening to the public.
- May 18, 2020:
- Essential businesses may continue to operate, subject to new safety and compliance standards.
- Manufacturing and construction industries may begin to reopen.
- Hospitals and community health centers, subject to meeting specific public health and safety standards.
- May 25, 2020:
- Offices outside of Boston may reopen with a 25% max occupancy cap, though businesses are strongly encouraged to continue allowing employees to work from home.
- Laboratory and life sciences facilities.
- Other sectors, such as hair salons, pet grooming, exterior car washing, and remote retail.
- June 1, 2020:
- Offices in the city of Boston may open, subject to the 25% max occupancy cap.
- 25% Occupancy Cap
- Designated offices may open on the dates specified provided that they limit the occupancy of the workplace to no more than 25% of (a) the maximum occupancy level specified in any certificate of occupancy; or (b) the typical occupancy of the business as of March 1, 2020, unless the business can demonstrate that compliance with this standard would jeopardize public health and safety or interfere with the delivery of critical services.
- Mandatory Safety Standards
- All workplaces that open during Phase 1 must comply with a set of Mandatory Safety Standards relating to social distancing, hygiene protocols, staffing/operations, and cleaning/disinfecting. This includes, for example, mandatory use of masks for all employees, signage to encourage social distancing, the provision of supplies for handwashing and cleaning, regular sanitization of high-touch areas, and hygiene protocols.
- Mandatory Workplace Postings
- Businesses are required to self-certify and post a “Compliance Attestation” visible to employees and visitors stating a commitment to complying with state safety standards;
- Businesses must also display “Employer” and “Worker” posters describing the rules for social distancing, hygiene, cleaning, and disinfecting protocols.
- Written Control Plan
- All employers must develop and maintain onsite, a written control plan to outline how they will comply with state’s mandatory safety standards to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The Commonwealth has developed a template COVID-19 Control Plan.
- Mandatory Training
- Employers are required to provide training for employees regarding the mandatory workplace safety measures.
- Additional Industry-Specific Requirements
Other Key Considerations:
- The Governor’s Office strongly encourages the continued use of remote work wherever feasible to limit the transmission of the virus
- Employers should allow high-risk populations (as identified by the CDC) for workplace accommodations to continue remote work if possible and otherwise give “priority consideration” to providing other accommodations for such individuals.
- Employers are also encouraged to stagger shifts and break times to minimize the number of people in one place.
- Meetings and other gatherings should be limited to less than ten people.
- During Phases 1 (and 2), all travelers to Massachusetts are urged to self-quarantine for 14 days.
- Recognizing the increased demand for personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies created by new safety standards, the state has established a portal to connect businesses to suppliers.
- Compliance with the reopening standards will be jointly enforced by local health boards as well as the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and Labor Standards.
Next steps for employers:
All Massachusetts employers are affected by these new standards, so we encourage employers to take immediate steps to implement new protocols to comply with the mandatory health and safety protocols, and prepare relevant workplace policies and communications for employees.
We anticipate that workplace requirements will evolve as businesses begin to reopen. Therefore, we will be closely monitoring potential changes to these requirements, as well as additional sector-specific protocols and guidance for Phase 2, which we expect to be issued in the coming weeks.
Employers with questions about compliance with the new standards and the impact on their businesses, are encouraged to reach out to Jacqueline Piscitello at email@example.com to ensure compliance with the new directives.
Jacqueline Piscitello has nearly 25 years of legal experience and has been a partner with Outside GC since 2005. Jackie has experience in a wide range of areas, including advising on sophisticated employment and labor matters, technology, litigation and dispute resolution, as well as a variety of general corporate and governance matters.