In the latest workplace measure aimed at controlling the spread of COVID-19, essential businesses and entities in New York State will be required to provide their employees with “face coverings” no later than 8 p.m. on Wednesday, April 15. Employees interfacing with the public as part of their work duties will be required to wear them. The measure is part of Gov. Cuomo’s latest Executive Order (Order 202.16), issued on Sunday, April 12.

Specifically, the Order directs employees of “essential businesses or entities” to “wear face coverings when in direct contact with customers or members of the public.” Businesses are required to provide face coverings at no expense to their employees. The Order comes as the state continues to tweak its list of “essential businesses or entities,” last updated on Thursday, April 9.

Notably, the Order does not mandate the use of medical-grade masks or respirators. Instead, the Order’s reference to “face coverings” seems to align with the New York. Department of Health’s recent advisory  on cloth face coverings, which may be “fashioned from household items” or made from “common materials at low-cost.” The Governor’s office is expected to issue additional guidance specific to workplace face coverings, as well.

As mentioned above, the Order takes effect at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, April 15. Like other recent Executive Orders, the face-covering requirement may be “enforced by local governments or local law enforcement,” and violations will be treated as violations of the New York Public Health Law.

Essential businesses should immediately identify which members of their workforce interface with customers or the general public and ensure that their employees have face coverings.

This alert does not purport to be a substitute for advice of counsel on specific matters.

Harris Beach has offices throughout New York State, including Albany, Buffalo, Ithaca, Long Island, New York City, Rochester, Saratoga Springs, Syracuse and White Plains, as well as New Haven, Connecticut and Newark, New Jersey.