Effective April 17, 2020, the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) significantly revised its recently issued Safe Workplace Rules for Essential Employers (the “Rules”).  Specifically, the Rules have been updated to include a requirement that all employees of essential businesses wear masks while working.  The DECD’s original rules did not contain any provision regarding masks.  Now, the DECD has significantly modified the mask requirements as follows:

  • Employees of essential businesses are required to wear a “mask or other cloth material” that covers his or her mouth and nose while in the workplace, except while on break time to eat or drink.
  • Employees who work alone in segregated spaces (e.g. cubicles with walls and private offices) may remove their masks while at their cubicle, office or work station. These employees, however, must still wear a mask from the time they enter the building until the time they arrive at their workstation, and any time they leave their workstation and move around common areas, such as going to the restroom.
  • Employees who work in congregate settings (e.g., open manufacturing floors, warehouses, areas open to the public, shared offices or similar settings), must wear a mask while at their workstations.
  • Continuous wearing of masks is not required in outdoor workspaces where employees do not regularly come within six feet of each other.
  • An employee is not required to wear a mask when doing so would be “contrary to his or her health or safety because of a medical condition.” If an employee declines to wear a mask due to a medical condition, an employer cannot require medical documentation.
  • Essential employers are required to issue masks or cloth face coverings to employees. If an essential business cannot do so, due to shortages or supply chain difficulties, it must provide employees with materials and the CDC’s tutorial on how to create a cloth face covering.  Alternatively, an essential business can compensate employees for the reasonable and necessary costs of materials used to make a mask or face covering. There is no requirement for a N95 face mask to be provided.

Essential employers must also require its customers and visitors to wear masks or face coverings while on the premises. Essential businesses can, if they chose, provide face coverings to customers or other visitors upon, or prior to, entering the essential business.  An essential business, however, may not require a customer or visitor to use a mask or face covering when doing so would be contrary to their health or safety due to a medical condition; and the essential business may not require a customer or visitor to produce medical documentation.  In addition, an essential business may not require a child in a childcare setting or a child under two years old to wear a face mask or covering.  Further, it may not require an older child to wear a face mask or covering if the child is unable to safely place the mask on its face; or, if the parent or person responsible for the child is unable to safely place the mask on the child’s face.

Essential businesses should modify their existing policies regarding face masks while the COVID-19 pandemic continues.  Also, since the Rules have changed in the short time since they have been issued, there may be further changes and adjustments.  Epstein Becker & Green, P.C. will continue to monitor these developments and will alert you to any changes or adjustments.  In the meantime, if you have any questions or need assistance drafting or modifying your existing COVID-19 policies so that they are legally compliant, please contact Peter M. Stein, Deborah Cannavino, Carol J. Faherty, or your Epstein Becker & Green, P.C. attorney.

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