New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has signed Executive Order 142, bringing New Jersey into Stage One of a three-stage plan to reopen the state's economy. The Executive Order eases regulations put in place in March 2020 that severely limited the business operations of non-essential retail businesses and construction projects in New Jersey.

Effective May 18, 2020, and subject to certain restrictions described below, all of New Jersey's non-essential retail businesses are permitted to reopen for curbside pickup (essential retail businesses remain open to customers who wish to physically enter) and non-essential construction projects are permitted to resume.

Requirements for Reopening Non-Essential Retail 

Non-essential retail businesses must abide by the following requirements:

  • Customers may not come inside the brick-and-mortar premises;
  • In-store operations must be limited, wherever feasible, to those employees who are responsible for the operations required for curbside pickup;
  • Wherever feasible, customer transactions shall be handled in a way that avoids person-to-person contact;
  • Customers shall notify the retailer by text message, email, or phone once they arrive, whenever feasible, or make best efforts to schedule their arrival time in advance. If arriving by car, customers shall be asked to remain in their vehicle until store staff delivers the purchase;
  • Designated employees shall bring goods outside of the retail establishment and place the goods directly in a customer's vehicle whenever feasible; and
  • Retail businesses operating in shopping malls are permitted to operate by curbside pickup, but employees must bring the purchase to customers at the exterior of the mall and shall place the items directly in a customer's vehicle whenever feasible. Indoor portions of shopping malls shall remain closed to the public.

Although not expressly required to do so, non-essential retail business employers "should," at a minimum:

  • Require infection control practices, such as regular hand washing, coughing and sneezing etiquette, and proper tissue usage and disposal;
  • Provide employees break time for repeated handwashing throughout the workday;
  • Provide employees with sanitization materials, such as hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes;
  • Require frequent sanitization of high-touch areas to which workers have access; and
  • Require employees to wear cloth face coverings and gloves when interacting with other workers or customers, and require staff to wear gloves when in contact with customers or goods. Businesses must provide, at their expense, such face coverings and gloves for their employees.

Requirements for Reopening Non-Essential Construction 

To engage in non-essential construction work, construction companies must:

  • Prohibit non-essential visitors from entering the worksite;
  • Engage in appropriate social distancing measures when picking up or delivering equipment or materials;
  • Limit worksite meetings, inductions, and workgroups to groups of fewer than 10 individuals;
  • Require individuals to maintain six feet or more distance between them wherever possible;
  • Stagger work start and stop times where practicable to limit the number of individuals entering and leaving the worksite concurrently;
  • Identify congested and "high-risk areas," including but not limited to lunchrooms, breakrooms, portable rest rooms, and elevators, and limit the number of individuals at those sites concurrently where practicable;
  • Stagger lunch breaks and work times where practicable to enable operations to safely continue while utilizing the fewest number of individuals possible at the site;
  • Require workers and visitors to wear cloth face coverings, in accordance with CDC recommendations, while on the premises, except where doing so would inhibit the individual's health or the individual is under two years of age, and require workers to wear gloves while on the premises. Businesses must provide, at their expense, such face coverings and gloves for their employees.

    If a visitor refuses for non-medical reasons to wear a cloth face covering and if such covering cannot be provided to the individual by the business at the point of entry, then the business must decline entry to the individual. Where an individual declines to wear a face covering on the premises due to a medical condition that inhibits such usage, neither the business nor its staff shall require the individual to produce medical documentation verifying the stated condition;
  • Require infection control practices such as regular hand washing, coughing and sneezing etiquette, and proper tissue usage and disposal;
  • Limit sharing of tools, equipment, and machinery;
  • Where running water is not available, provide portable washing stations with soap and/or alcohol-based hand sanitizers that have greater than 60 percent ethanol or 70 percent isopropanol;
  • Require frequent sanitization of high-touch areas like restrooms, breakrooms, equipment, and machinery;
  • When the worksite is an occupied residence, require workers to sanitize work areas and keep a distance of at least six feet from the occupants; and
  • Place conspicuous signage at entrances and throughout the worksite detailing the above mandates.

What's Still to Come in New Jersey?

Most New Jersey businesses remain subject to significant restrictions at this time. On May 18, 2020, Governor Murphy released his blueprint for a multi-stage reopening, which contains few specifics and no dates.

Any progress from one stage to the next will depend on: health indicators; testing availability and capacity; healthcare system capacity; the ability to effectively safeguard workplaces, childcare, education, and public transportation; and the level of compliance demonstrated by individuals and employers.

The facts, laws, and regulations regarding COVID-19 are developing rapidly. Since the date of publication, there may be new or additional information not referenced in this advisory. Please consult with your legal counsel for guidance.

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