Massachusetts is beginning to reopen for business, with strict rules about how businesses may bring workers back to the workplace. On May 18, the commonwealth issued its phased reopening plan following the closure of all nonessential businesses due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency. This LawFlash discusses the government’s rules for the reopening process, including industry-specific guidance.
Phase I Opening of Businesses and Other Organizations
As a threshold matter, the phased reopening gives businesses permission to reopen, but reopening is not mandatory. On May 18, the following businesses will be eligible to reopen, subject to their ability to comply with all mandatory safety standards, summarized below:
On May 25, the following businesses will be eligible to reopen, subject to their ability to comply with all mandatory safety standards, summarized below.
On June 1, offices in Boston may reopen, subject to the restrictions set forth above.
Phase I will last a minimum of three weeks and could last longer before moving to Phase II.
On May 19, the Commonwealth published industry-specific detailed guidelines for the following industries allowed to open during Phase I: (1) manufacturing; (2) construction (including construction projects that are restarting); (3) places of worship; (4) offices; (5) car washes; (6) hair salons and barber shops; (7) pet groomers; (8) laboratories; and (9) health and human services. These detailed guidelines are designed to address the particular circumstances and operational needs of specific workplace sectors.
While the summary guidelines are helpful, the detailed guidelines set forth the binding minimum standards for each industry. Although the requirements differ somewhat between industries, the following additional requirements apply generally across industries. The guidance is very specific, and businesses should review it in full and implement appropriate measures before reopening.
All of the above businesses/organizations permitted to open are required to self-certify compliance with all applicable general and sector-specific rules. The self-certification need not be submitted to a state agency but must be retained on the premises of the business and provided in the event of an inspection. Businesses are also required to sign a poster, attesting that they are in compliance with the applicable general and sector-specific rules.
Businesses looking to reopen or expand their workplace anywhere in the Massachusetts need to be aware of the commonwealth’s detailed guidelines and requirements. Businesses should be especially mindful of the industry-specific guidance and should ensure that they have taken effective measures to ensure their workplaces are safe for employees and guests alike. Common steps Massachusetts employers are required to implement prior to reopening are establishing a broad social distancing plan, creating a workplace safety plan, developing communications to employees about these plans, implementing COVID-19 symptom screening, including self-screening, training all employees on up-to-date safety information and training screeners and managers on responsible and consistent implementation of these plans, updating cleaning protocols, taking steps to reduce the number of people in the workplace to permissible numbers, and developing protocol for when an employee is infected, including a contact tracing protocol and script.
For our clients, we have formed a multidisciplinary Coronavirus COVID-19 Task Force to help guide you through the broad scope of legal issues brought on by this public health challenge. Find resources on how to cope with the post-pandemic reality on our NOW. NORMAL. NEXT. page and our COVID-19 page to help keep you on top of developments as they unfold. If you would like to receive a daily digest of all new updates to the page, please subscribe now to receive our COVID-19 alerts, and download our biweekly COVID-19 Legal Issue Compendium.
If you have any questions or would like more information on the issues discussed in this LawFlash, please contact any of the following Morgan Lewis lawyers: