With the fall surge upon us, state and local governments are issuing new orders to curb the rising number of COVID-19 cases.

The Secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Health recently issued two such orders, a Travel Order and a Mask Order, which are now in effect.  Employers should be aware of and comply with both Orders.

The Travel Order requires Pennsylvanians who travel out of state to either: (a) produce evidence of a negative COVID-19 test taken prior to returning to Pennsylvania, or (b) quarantine for fourteen (14) days upon returning to Pennsylvania.  While not explicitly stated in the Travel Order, if an employee takes a COVID-19 test after returning to Pennsylvania, the required quarantine period can end once the employee receives a negative test result.  Employees who travel to and from Pennsylvania for work are exempt from the Travel Order.

Companies that are subject to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) are required to provide emergency paid sick leave to employees who miss work time as a result of complying with the Travel Order.  The FFCRA requires employers to provide emergency paid sick leave where an employee cannot work or telework because the employee is subject to a federal, state or local quarantine or isolation order.  The Travel Order constitutes such an order.  While this seems counterintuitive and frankly unfair to employers (since the employees chose to travel), there is a substantial legal risk if your company fails to provide the paid leave.  If a company is not subject to the FFCRA, employees are not required to be paid for their missed time, but could elect to use their paid time off.  Employers should direct their employees to be tested prior to returning to Pennsylvania or immediately thereafter in order to minimize employee absences.  Employers should remember that the FFCRA, and the paid leave available thereunder, is set to expire on December 31, 2020.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health’s guidance on the Travel Order is available here.

The Mask Order is an updated order that now makes it a requirement for employees to wear face coverings when they are in the same space, even if the employees are six or more feet apart.  The Mask Order requires employers to:

  • take reasonable steps to enforce the face covering requirement;
  • mitigate or eliminate employee or customer exposure to employees who cannot wear or refuse to wear a face covering;
  • post prominent signs that are visible to all people stating that face coverings are required by the Order of the Secretary of Health; and
  • provide reasonable accommodations to employees who have a medical condition that makes it unreasonable for the person to wear a face covering.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health’s guidance on the Mask Order is available here.

Please contact a member of our Employment Law Group with any COVID-19 related questions.

This post was written by Rachel Felton, Jim O’Connor and Justin Barron

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