On May 1, 2020 the Governor’s Economic Reopening Task Force issued Universal Guidelines for all New Hampshire employers and employees. The guidelines apply to organizations deemed essential and that remained open during the “Stay at Home Order,” as well as to those now set to reopen fully or partially in the coming weeks.
The Guidelines are based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the Occupational Safety and Health Association. As CDC guidance continues to evolve, businesses should frequently check for updated information. In addition to the general guidelines, industry specific guidance has been developed for businesses such as retail stores, restaurants, barber shops, hair salons, and golf courses. The Universal Guidelines are designed to strike a balance between ensuring public safety and allowing New Hampshire businesses to remain open.
The Universal Guidelines state that businesses must:
- Require all employees who are sick or not feeling well to stay home, and all employees must notify their supervisors by phone of any illness.
- Develop a process for screening all employees reporting for work for COVID-19 symptoms.
- Require employees who answer “yes” to any of the screening questions to leave the premises immediately.
- Promote frequent hand hygiene, and make alcohol-based hand sanitizer readily available.
- Implement workplace cleaning and disinfecting practices which include sanitation of moderate to high touch areas at least every two hours.
- Mitigate exposure by supporting the use of cloth face coverings when social distancing is difficult to maintain, limiting in person meetings, and limiting communal use of self-service food offerings.
- Allow employees to work from home as much as practical.
- Plan for excessive absenteeism resulting from COVID-19 cases.
- Remind employees of their rights under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
Employers will likely be most concerned about item 2 above, and the Guidelines provide specifics on the type of screening which is both recommended and permitted by the EEOC. The screening process should include the following:
- The employer should identify a location and assign a person to screen each employee every day before entering the work-place.
- The person performing the screening should wear a cloth face covering as should any employee who is in potential close contact with others while at work.
- The screener should ask the following questions:
- Have you been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19?
- Have you had a fever or felt feverish in the last 72 hours?
- Are you experiencing any respiratory symptoms including a runny nose, sore throat, cough, or shortness of breath?
- Are you experiencing any new muscle aches or chills?
- Have you experienced any new change in your sense of taste or smell?
- Documenting the temperature of all employees before the start of each work shift using a no touch thermometer.
As an alternative, employers may do the screening by having employees complete a written survey with the same questions. The documentation should be treated like any other confidential medical information and kept in the employee’s medical file. Care should be taken to maintain confidentiality of employee medical information at all times.