Effective June 4, 2021, Executive Order 243 will allow employees in New Jersey who are fully vaccinated to forgo masking and social distancing at work, although employers may choose to follow existing protocols. The Order also lifts the requirement to accommodate remote working arrangement to reduce staffs to the minimum necessary to conduct the business.
According to John Sarno, president of Employers Association of New Jersey, regulatory guidance authorizes mandatory vaccine programs, provided that medical and religious accommodations were honored and free from retaliation.
“While employees who have been fully vaccinated and are eager to resume a more normal work-life may be unhappy with mask wearing and distancing, separating fully vaccinated from non-vaccinated employees presents its own challenges,” he says.
Where an employer is unable to determine the individual’s vaccination status or the individual is not fully vaccinated, employers must continue to require those employees to wear masks and practice social distancing in indoor spaces.
Polls suggest that about 25 percent of people say that they will not get the vaccine for mostly personal or political reasons.
Employers may require a COVID vaccine or promote its voluntary administration.
“We are awaiting formal guidance but many employers have offered incentives to their employees who receive the COVID-19 vaccine voluntarily,” says Sarno.
Employers should be careful though when offering incentives to employees prior to additional regulatory guidance to make sure the incentive is not too large as to lose its “voluntary” status. A large incentive could turn a "voluntary" promotion into something that appears coercive.
There may also be a tax consequence on what is given and the amount. IRS guidance here.
Employers can require workers to show proof of vaccination before allowing them to stop masking and distancing, although workers with disabilities may need to be accommodated.
For example, the Wall Street Journal has reported that some chain grocery stores require employees to provide proof of vaccination to work without masks and unvaccinated employees are required to wear coverings.
Join John Sarno for a one-hour discussion on Return to Work and the Post-Pandemic Workplace. June 21, 10-11am. Register here.