Last summer, as New York began the process of non-essential business reopenings, the State issued a series of industry-specific workplace health and safety guidelines with which all businesses were and have continued to be required to adhere. On the heels of recent CDC guidance loosening workplace-related restrictions for vaccinated employees, New York has updated these guidelines for several industries, including most notably for all office-based work in the Empire State. Critically, the new guidelines incorporate the CDC’s guidelines with respect to social distancing, mask wearing, and capacity restrictions.
The new guidelines, which all employers with office-based operations are required to read and affirm, include the following key points:
- The guidelines confirm that New York employers may accept proof of vaccination status through paper form, digital application, or the State’s Excelsior Pass.
- New York employers were previously required to ask a detailed set of daily health screening questions to all workplace visitors. Under the newest iteration of the guidelines, however, employers now need only ask whether an individual: (1) is currently experiencing, or recently experienced (in the last 48 hours), any new or worsening COVID-19 symptoms; (2) has had close contact in the past 10 days with any person confirmed by diagnostic test, or suspected based on symptoms, to have COVID-19; and (3) has tested positive through a diagnostic test for COVID-19 in the past 10 days.
- The guidelines confirm that, since some COVID-19 symptoms may occur with pre-existing medical conditions (such as allergies or migraines, as diagnosed by a health care practitioner), individuals need only answer “yes” as to experiencing symptoms if they are “new or worsening.”
- In addition, employees who are fully vaccinated or who have, in the last three months, fully recovered from COVID-19 are no longer required to answer the “close contact” screening question.
- The guidelines confirm that health screenings may be performed via signage, at point of entry, by e-mail/website, by telephone, or by electronic survey before individuals enter the establishment.
- The guidelines repeal the requirement that employers maintain a close contact log. Previously, employers were required to maintain a log of every person, including employees and visitors, who may have had close or proximate contact with other individuals at the worksite or area. Now, keeping such a log is recommended “[t]o the extent possible.”
- Following CDC guidance, fully vaccinated individuals are no longer required to wear face coverings or social distance, however, individuals who are unvaccinated or whose vaccination status is unclear must continue to do so. The guidelines provide employers with some “discretion” on implementing these standards, although the specifics of what is discretionary are not entirely settled.
All New York employers with office-based operations should review the updated guidelines in full, affirm their compliance with same on the New York Forward website, and update their business safety plans accordingly.
If you have any questions or concerns about these updated guidelines or how they affect your company, Reed Smith’s experienced Labor & Employment Group is ready to speak with you.