The COVID-19 pandemic has hurt businesses like never before. Early on in the pandemic, state governments shut down non-essential retail establishments and many businesses in the service industry, such as restaurants and bars. In recent months, New Jersey Governor Murphy has lifted the majority of the restrictive measures due to the highly effective COVID-19 vaccine and treatments.
Nevertheless, both state and federal governments continue to emphasize the ongoing need to protect employees and patrons in the service industry, especially in bars and restaurants. Unfortunately, not all businesses are complying with these precautions leaving employees and their families at risk for contracting the virus. If you work at a restaurant and are concerned about your safety, McOmber McOmber & Luber P.C. has compiled the following information for you.
Are Bars and Restaurants Required to Maintain Strict COVID-19 Protocols?
No. Under Executive Order 243, New Jersey no longer requires bars and restaurants to implement strict COVID-19 protection measures. Masks are no longer required and facilities can now operate at full capacity without regard to six feet of distance between tables or bar seats.
Dance floors, indoor bar seating, buffets and self-service food stations, and ancillary activities such as karaoke and standing service are now all permitted.
What Should Bars and Restaurants Do To Keep Employees Safe?
To stop the spread of COVID-19 and keep employees and customers safe, restaurants and bars are encouraged to require masks indoors if individuals are not vaccinated. In addition, while no longer required, businesses are encouraged to provide sanitation materials to employees free of charge and provide employees sufficient break time to practice hand hygiene.
It is recommended that employers continue to conduct daily health checks of its employees, such as temperature screenings and symptom checking consistent with CDC guidance. If employees are sick, they should be encouraged to stay home. Employers should continue to notify employees promptly of any known exposure to COVID-19.
The New Jersey Department of Health has released additional safety recommendations for indoor and outdoor dining that can be found here.
Can I Still Wear My Mask at Work?
Yes. Even though New Jersey no longer requires employees to wear masks in bars and restaurants, employers are prohibited from restricting them from doing so and cannot penalize or retaliate against them for making this choice. Executive Order 243.
What Do I Do If My Employer is Not Taking Safety Precautions?
If you believe your employer is not following proper safety measures, you can file a complaint with the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (DOLW) and OSHA. The State has also set up a COVID-19 Information Hub that allows you to file a complaint for COVID-19 violations. You can find that form here.
Your employer cannot retaliate against you for filing a complaint pursuant to the New Jersey’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA) as well as other state and federal laws.