• Dr. Soumi Eachempati

How will New York businesses comply with mandatory employee screening and other requirements?

New Yorkers will have to get used to daily screening for Covid-19 and their employers will be required to maintain a record of their responses according to the office of the Governor of New York State when Phase 2 of the reopening plan starts June 22. Employers will also be required to review the responses on a daily basis and maintain a record of such a review. Buildings will be required to monitor access to their facilities. This responsibility will undoubtedly be designated to its tenant employers as part of their screening process.

Some businesses will approach Phase 2 by starting with skeleton workplace staffs if possible and then determine how best to adhere to the state guidelines. Other businesses that have been successful with their employees working from home may test the waters to see if the requirements ease up before they bring all their staff back to the workplace or invest in resources. This latter approach may end up in remorse as experts see the pandemic to extend well into 2021 even if a vaccine is introduced at the end of this year.

Businesses in other states are carefully looking at these New York State requirements as they may end up being used as a blueprint for their own states. Mandatory employee screening is one part of the Phase 2 requirements of the New York state reopening plan. In this phase, “nonessential businesses” such offices will reopen and restaurants will have outdoor seating. Hair salons and barbershops can see customers (without a waiting room) and realtors can start showing properties again. Car sales can resume and commercial building management can again conduct their business.

Regarding employee management, all these varied entities all have to conform to the same rules which are detailed on the New York State’s website. These rules cover all aspects of employees returning to the workplace and what employers should prepare to ensure optimum safety. As mentioned, mandatory guidelines include screening of employees for Covid-19, documentation of employees' symptoms, and building entry control to screened individuals.

Different companies will approach these mandates in different ways. Some businesses will be challenged by these mandatory screening and documentation requirement due to resource constraints. Larger businesses may find they need electronic solutions by third-party vendors to comply and maintain the potentially exorbitant amount of information that needs to be gathered daily, recorded, reviewed, and potentially audited. Smaller business such as cafes or hairstyling establishments may have a limited number of employees and may choose to maintain a paper record with handwritten notebooks with the hopes of never being audited.

Other requirements will be equally important for employee safety. Buildings will be required to screen employees at their entrances and identify potentially symptomatic visitors. Other documentation including a log of all individuals who are at the workplace, including visitors, is required for presumably contact tracing protocols. Buffets are out. Gyms and game rooms are to stay closed.

The website also revealed other required and recommended practices that focus largely around hygiene in the workplace as distancing is mandated and certain cleaning protocols are necessary. Masks are recommended as are practices involved in social distancing.

The exact audit process has not been discussed. Fines have not been stated. Many businesses hope that audits will not occur unless an outbreak occurs. Reckless businesses probably have major issues if they develop a Covid-19 outbreak and cannot produce solid documentation that shoddy scrutiny of their employees did not contribute to the issue.

Regardless of the approach chosen, many businesses in New York State are finally going to go back to the workplace. The world is watching!

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