NJ Starts Reopening Nonessential Businesses

May 15, 2020

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has signed Executive Order 142, which cues the early stages of reopening. New Jersey residents can now hold small in-person gatherings, as well as attend vehicular gatherings or events. Starting May 18, nonessential retail businesses can open, but only for curbside pickup and provided they require infection control practices inside the store. Nonessential construction projects can also resume on May 18.

New Jersey Residents Can Have Small Gatherings and Vehicular Gatherings

Effective immediately, the order relaxes the current prohibition on gatherings and allows for normal in-person gatherings of up to 10 people.

Also effective immediately, the order allows for “gatherings” of individuals who arrive and remain in their vehicle (such as for birthday and graduation car parades), with all doors and windows closed unless they are at least six feet from other vehicles and people. While the limited number of people organizing the gathering do not need to be in vehicles, they must follow all other executive orders and maintain social distancing. Even recreational and entertainment events where customers remain in their vehicles are allowed (i.e., drive-in movies, religious services, or drive-through farms or safaris). If the gathering requires prepayment or seeks donations, contactless payment options must be offered wherever feasible.

Curbside Pickup Allowed for Brick-and-Mortar Nonessential Retail Businesses

Since March 21, all nonessential retail businesses in New Jersey have been closed to the public. These businesses must remain physically closed for customers, but can reopen for curbside pickup beginning May 18 at 6:00 am.

Businesses must:

  • prohibit customers from entering the premises, but permit them to pick up goods outside;
  • limit in-store operations to employees responsible for curbside pickup;
  • handle customer transactions in advance by means that avoid person-to-person contact;
  • require customers to schedule an arrival time in advance or notify the retailer of arrival by phone, text, or email, and then remain in their vehicle;
  • have designated employees take goods outside and place them directly in the customer’s vehicle;
  • follow the same rules if located in shopping malls, keeping indoor portions of malls closed to the public and having employees deliver goods to the outside areas; and
  • take the following measures, at minimum:
    • provide employees with and require them to wear cloth face coverings and gloves;
    • require infection control practices, including regular hand washing, coughing and sneezing etiquette, proper tissue use and disposal;
    • provide employees break time for hand washing; and
    • provide employees sanitation materials, including hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes.

These provisions generally contemplate delivery to customers in vehicles “where feasible” but do not explicitly prohibit curbside pickup by people without vehicles who “walk-up” instead of “drive-up.”

Nonessential Construction Can Resume

Nonessential construction projects, which were halted on April 10, may also resume on May 18. All construction projects are required to enforce social distancing and require infection control practices at work sites. The substantial list of requirements includes maintaining six feet of distance between individuals, staggering work and break times, providing employees with face coverings and gloves that must be worn on-site, limiting gatherings in high-risk areas (like lunchrooms, breakrooms, and elevators), and frequent sanitization of high-touch areas. Notably, sites must place conspicuous signage at entrances and throughout the worksite detailing the order’s mandates.

What Should New Jersey Employers Do Now?

As businesses begin to ramp up, they should plan for anything but business as usual. Social distancing and infection control measures remain paramount for employee and customer safety. Businesses that were forced to shut down brick-and-mortar locations should consider whether and when they can resume operations compliant with Executive Order 142. A return to work for employees will require changes to normal practices that may include reinforcing good hygiene tips, frequent cleaning, staggered schedules, and additional measures to distance customers. Recreational and entertainment venues considering opening for vehicular events should similarly consider training employees for changes in operations and safety measures.

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August W. Heckman, III
Terry D. Johnson
Thomas A. Linthorst
Sean P. Lynch
Joseph A. Nuccio
Richard G. Rosenblatt
Michelle Seldin Silverman