Alert: Essential Workers in New York Must Be Provided with Face Masks

Apr 14, 2020

essential workers in New York must be provided with face masksUPDATE: On Wednesday, April 15, 2020, Governor Cuomo announced he will issue an executive order “requiring all people in New York to wear a mask or a face covering when out in public and in situations where social distancing cannot be maintained, such as on public transportation.” The order will take effect on Friday, April 17. The order to wear a mask will apply to all people in situations where they cannot shelter in place or practice 6 feet of social distancing, such as transit or grocery store workers. Cuomo said New York was considering civil penalties for not wearing a mask under these circumstances, but definitely not criminal penalties.

Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an Executive Order requiring that essential workers in New York must be provided with face masks, free of charge, by their employer, for use when interacting with the public. Employers have until 8 p.m. on Wednesday, April 15 to comply with this order, by supplying any essential workers with purchased or homemade face coverings.

Employees are permitted to bring their own face coverings but cannot be required to do so by their employer. Here is the text  of the order:

“For all essential businesses or entities, any employees who are present in the workplace shall be provided and shall wear face coverings when in direct contact with customers or members of the public. Businesses must provide, at their expense, such face coverings for their employees. This provision may be enforced by local governments or local law enforcement as if it were an order pursuant to section 12 or 12-b of the Public Health Law. This requirement shall be effective Wednesday, April 15 at 8 p.m.”

For businesses that are having difficulty procuring the face coverings, the governor’s office advises contacting their local county office of emergency management. But even in this situation, the employer is still responsible for supplying manufactured or homemade masks.

NOTE: the term “mask” generally refers to a medical or surgical mask, and/or one with a filtering mechanism. These masks should be reserved for first responders and health care workers. A “face covering” is made from cloth or other material that covers the mouth and nose. The CDC lists five criteria for “cloth face coverings,” which should:

  • fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face
  • be secured with ties or ear loops
  • include multiple layers of fabric
  • allow for breathing without restriction
  • be able to be laundered and machine-dried without damage or change to shape

More guidance is expected soon from Cuomo’s office. Please visit our COVID-19 payroll and HR resource page for more information on federal and state requirements.

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