RED BANK, NJ: We asked attorney Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney with over 26 years of advising managers on labor and employment law issues a few questions as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mahoney began her career as with the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General as a Deputy Attorney General.  Her initial assignment was assisting senior attorneys in complex litigation including employment discrimination cases and US Department of Justice Investigations. 

TAPinto: Can my employer make me come into work rather than working from home?

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Mahoney: If your job cannot be done from home your employer can require you to come into work. If you are not an essential employee and your job can be done from home then under Executive Order 107 you should be permitted to work from home.

If you are required to come into work but have an underlying medical condition that makes you more susceptible to COVID-19 or more likely to get extremely sick if you get it than you can request reasonable accommodation to work from home. 

TAPinto: What does my employer have to do to protect me if I have to come into work?

Mahoney: Your employer must ask screening questions of all employees and visitors to the workplace and take their temperatures before letting them in the workplace. Anyone with a temperature of 100.4 or higher or who has COVID symptoms cannot be allowed to enter the workplace. Everyone must be required to wear masks and other personal protective equipment if necessary. Social distancing is required so that employees stay 6 feet apart.

Barriers may have to be installed or work spaces rearranged to maintain social distancing. Surfaces that are frequently touched by multiple people like door knobs, light switches, and checkout counters should be wiped down frequently with disinfecting wipes and employees must be given frequent breaks to wash their hands. 

TAPinto: What happens if someone I work with gets COVID?

Mahoney: Your coworker will not be permitted to return to work until they recover or 10 days after they test positive or 7 days after a follow up negative test depending on whether they just test positive or get sick and how sick they get.

Your employer should notify everyone who came in contact with the person who got COVID so that they can get tested but cannot tell everyone who got sick. It’s recommended but not required that employers do a thorough cleaning and disinfecting of the workspace after someone tests positive.

TAPinto: Can my employer require me to get the COVID vaccine in order to work in the office?

Mahoney: Yes, in most cases they can. If you work for a health care provider or other essential employer where you are required to get the flu shot every year by statute in New Jersey then your employer will be able to require you to get the COVID vaccine and will be able to prohibit you from working if you do not get it.

If you work in any other setting your employer can require employees to get the COVID vaccine before returning to work but must reasonably accommodate those with medical restrictions that prohibit them from getting the vaccine or those whose religions prohibit vaccination.

As the vaccine has not been tested on those who are pregnant or lactating it is generally recommended that they also be accommodated but there is no law or regulation requiring that. 

Don’t wait until you find out that you have an employment issue. 

You need to get out in front of these regulations, and you begin that by calling the law offices Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney who will review your operations to ensure that your business meets the State’s guidelines now and in the future.

Be proactive and call Jennifer to schedule an appointment, telephone 732-740-3833, or email: jmm@njhrlawyer.com.

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