On Saturday, March 21, 2020 New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy issued Executive Order 107, which went into effect at 8:00 p.m. on March 21. The Executive Order directs that the brick-and-mortar premises of all non-essential retail businesses as well as all recreational and entertainment businesses close to the public and remain closed until the Order is rescinded. Executive Order 108 invalidates any local or county regulations which conflict with Executive Order 107.
Requirements for Businesses
The Order requires entities, whether closed or open to the general public, to reduce staff on premises to the minimum necessary to ensure that essential operations can continue. Moreover, these entities are to accommodate their workforce, as is feasible, for telework arrangements.
The Order provides a list of brick-and-mortar businesses that constitute “essential” retail business. These businesses may remain open to the public. The Order also provides a list of recreational and entertainment businesses that must close to the public.
Executive Order 107 defines essential retail businesses to include:
- Grocery stores, farmer’s markets and farms that sell directly to customers, and other food stores, including retailers that offer a varied assortment of foods comparable to what exists at a grocery store;
- Pharmacies and medical marijuana dispensaries;
- Medical supply stores;
- Gas stations;
- Convenience stores;
- Ancillary stores within healthcare facilities;
- Hardware and home improvement stores;
- Banks and other financial institutions;
- Laundromats and dry-cleaning services;
- Stores that principally sell supplies for children under five years;
- Pet stores;
- Liquor stores;
- Car dealerships, but only for auto maintenance and repair, and auto mechanics;
- Printing and office supply shops;
- Mail and delivery stores.
The list of recreational and entertainment businesses closed to the public includes:
- Casinos and any in-person wagering
- Racetracks and retail sports wagering location
- Gyms, fitness centers, classes
- All entertainment centers, including but not limited to movies, theaters, nightclubs
- Indoor areas of any mall
- Places of public amusement, parks, children’s play centers, zoos
- Personal care facilities, including but not limited to hair and nail salons, massage or spa facilities
- Municipal, private and public libraries.
Requirements for Individuals
Executive Order 107 also restricts the movement of residents of the State of New Jersey. The Order requires that all New Jersey residents shall remain home or at their place of residence unless they are:
- obtaining goods or services from essential retail businesses;
- obtaining takeout food or beverages from restaurants, other dining establishments or food courts;
- seeking medical attention, essential social services, or assistance from law enforcement or emergency services;
- visiting family or other individuals with whom the resident has a close personal relationship, such as those for whom the individual is a caretaker or romantic partner;
- reporting to, or performing, their job;
- walking, running, operating a wheelchair or engaging in outdoor activities with immediate family members, caretakers, household members or romantic partners while following best social distancing practices, including staying six feet apart;
- leaving the home for an educational, religious or political reason;
- leaving because of a reasonable fear for his or her health or safety; or
- leaving at the direction of law enforcement or other government agency.
The Order also requires that, when in public, individuals must practice social distancing and stay six feet apart—this requirement does not apply to immediate family members, caretakers, household members or romantic partners. Social events and gatherings are cancelled unless otherwise authorized by the Order.
What to Do if You Believe Your Employer is Violating the Order
An employee cannot be terminated for reporting violations of Executive Order 107. If an employer takes an adverse employment action against an employee for complaining or reporting violations of the Order to a governmental agency, the employee may have a claim for whistleblower retaliation. Employers who retaliate against employees that blow the whistle on violations of the order could be subject to liability under the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act.
If you believe an employer or organization is violating any part of Governor Murphy’s Executive Order 107, there is now an online form where you can report it.
Conscientious Employee Protection Act (“CEPA”)
CEPA is a New Jersey law that protects employees from retaliation for objecting to something that they reasonably believed violated the law.
CEPA prohibits employers from retaliating against an employee for engaging in a broad range of what it refers to as “protected activities.” This includes “objecting to or refusing to participate in an activity the employee reasonably believes (1) is in violation of a law or a legal regulation; (2) is fraudulent or criminal; or (3) is incompatible with a legal requirement relating to public health, safety, welfare or the protection of the environment.”
The Act allows for a multitude of damages and remedies, including reinstatement to your job, lost wages and benefits, damages for emotional distress, and punitive damages. An employee may also recover attorneys’ fees from the employer.
Penalties for Violating the Order
New Jersey’s Attorney General announced that those who violate the order could face charges ranging from a disorderly persons offense to a second, third, or fourth-degree crime, with potential penalties from a fine of $10 to $1,000 and jail time.
Contact Our Employment Law Attorneys For A Free Consultation
At McOmber McOmber & Luber, we take a proactive approach to each and every legal issue our clients face, helping both employers and employees with legal areas including employment contracts, discrimination, law, litigation, whistleblowing, and retaliation issues. Call our Red Bank office at 732-842-6500, our Marlton office at 856-985-9800, our Newark office at 973-878-9040, or contact us at 888-396-0736 or online for a free consultation. We represent clients throughout New Jersey.