On May 18, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy outlined his plans to slowly lift the restrictions put in place in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. As New Jersey businesses start to reopen, it is imperative to have a plan in place. However, this can be challenging given that businesses must adhere to a patchwork of requirements issued by state and local governments, as well as guidance by numerous federal agencies.

In this article, we summarize the business reopening guidance issued by the State of New Jersey to date and provide several other valuable sources of information that businesses should consult when formulating their reopening plans. As always, we also recommend that businesses consult with experienced professionals, including legal counsel.

New Jersey’s Reopening Plan

Gov. Murphy’s plan for reopening the state, entitled “The Road Back: Restoring Economic Health Through Public Health,” outlines several phases of reopening. The plan outlines key metrics that will guide the process for lifting restrictions and which industries may reopen in each phase.

New Jersey is currently in Phase 1, which now allows non-essential construction, curbside retail, drive-in activities, beaches, and elective surgeries. Business activities to be phased-in over the course of Stage 2 may include expanded retail, safeguarded restaurants with outdoor seating, limited personal care, and possibly indoor dining, museums, and libraries, all with significantly reduced capacity. The plan calls for workers who can work from home to continue to do so.

Required Procedures for Reopening New Jersey Business

New Jersey has also issued guidance regarding the measures businesses must take when allowed to resume their operations. As businesses reopen, they are advised to follow general social distancing guidance, which provides that individuals should maintain the six-foot physical distancing whenever possible and avoid gathering in groups of ten or more people. For businesses, social distancing may require the closure of break rooms, conference rooms, and other places where workers tend to gather.

Upon reopening, New Jersey businesses must have cleaning and sanitation procedures in place. At minimum, they must:

  • Require employees to adopt infection control practices, such as regular hand washing, coughing and sneezing etiquette, and proper tissue usage and disposal.
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch areas routinely in accordance with Centers for Disease and Control (CDC) guidelines, particularly in spaces accessible to staff, customers, tenants, or other individuals, particularly following a known or potential exposure;
  • Maintain current cleaning procedures in all other areas of the facility;
  • Ensure that the facility has a sufficient number of workers to perform the above protocols effectively.

New Jersey also requires most workers and customers to wear cloth face coverings, and require workers to wear gloves. A business must provide, at its own expense, these face coverings and gloves for employees.

Customers may be exempted if it would inhibit their health, or if they are under two years of age. If a customer refuses, they must be denied entry, unless the business is providing medication, medical supplies, or food, in which case another method of pickup should be provided.

Industry-Specific NJ Business Reopening Guidance

New Jersey has also issued industry-specific guidance. The guidance addresses industries, such as retail, construction, transportation, and manufacturing.

New Jersey has been updating its guidance on the Business.NJ.gov website as certain types of businesses are allowed to reopen. For instance, newly issued guidance advises that non-essential retail businesses that open for curbside pickup must adopt the following social policies:

  • Customers can pick up goods outside of an establishment that they have already ordered but cannot enter the brick-and-mortar premises;
  • Where possible, limit in-store operations to those employees who are responsible for the operations required for curbside pickup;
  • Where possible, handle customer transactions in advance by phone, email, fax, or other means that avoid person-to-person contact;
  • Where possible, customers shall notify the retailer by text message, email, or phone once they arrive, or make best efforts to schedule their arrival time in advance. The customer shall be asked to remain in their vehicle, if arriving by car, until store staff delivers the purchase; 
  • Where possible, designated employees shall bring goods outside of the retail establishment and place the goods directly in a customer’s vehicle; and
  • For retail businesses operating in shopping malls, employees must bring the goods to customers at the exterior of the mall and place them directly in a customer’s vehicle.

We have also discussed various reopening requirements on the Scarinci Hollenbeck website. For instance, you can find guidance for the construction industry here.

Federal Business Reopening Guidance

Numerous government agencies have issued guidance regarding how businesses should address the coronavirus pandemic, including the CDC, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The CDC has issued detailed guidance regarding a wide range of topics, such as how to clean businesses for reopening, prevent transmission among employees, and handle employees who may have contracted COVID-19. You can find the guidance on the CDC COVID-19 website. OSHA has also issued COVID-19 guidance regarding how to protect workers from potential exposures.

The EEOC has also issued guidance for employers regarding a wide range of compliance issues, such as maintaining the confidentiality of medical records from health checks and accommodating high-risk workers. The guidance is available via the EEOC’s Coronavirus webpage, and we also discussed it here.

Trade associations, business groups, professional associations, and others have also issued guidance and other information that may be useful when businesses are developing their reopening plans. Examples include the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, New Jersey Business and Industry Association, and the National Restaurant Association.

Key Takeaway for Business Reopening Plans

As New Jersey businesses begin to reopen, it is imperative to take all proper precautions to protect the safety of workers, customers, clients and visitors. In addition to consulting all available guidance, it is also important to tailor the plans to your unique circumstances. Accordingly, reopening plans should be specific to your workplace, identify all areas and job tasks with potential exposures to COVID-19, and includes control measures to eliminate or reduce such exposures. Given that the situation continues to evolve, we also advise businesses to regularly monitor applicable federal, state, and local orders regarding COVID-19’s impact on business operations. At Scarinci Hollenbeck, we have also created a COVID-19 resource center. In addition, our experienced attorneys are here to help you successfully navigate these challenging times.

If you have questions, please contact us

If you have any questions or if you would like to discuss the matter further, please contact me, Ramon Rivera, or the Scarinci Hollenbeck attorney with whom you work, at 201-896-4100.