Many states, including New Jersey, are imposing their own rules to protect workers from the coronavirus. Whether they are motivated by partisan politics or a legitimate concern about the lack of federal health and safety enforcement, employers are facing a whole new set of regulations that could serve as a baseline for new national standards when President-elect Joe Biden takes office in January.
Many states have instituted their own restrictions on business operations, gatherings and the like, as the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has come under fire for, what many perceive as, lax enforcement during the pandemic. While federal OSHA sets national standards, states can implement their own occupational health and safety plans, so long as they are at least as stringent as the federal government’s standard.
In New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy released guidelines earlier in the pandemic related to worker protection. Labor groups urged the Governor to mandate the rules and create a process for workers to report violations, something he did via executive order in late October. In four weeks, more than 1,000 complaints of alleged workplace health and safety violations had been submitted.
OSHA has preexisting safety standards that are enforceable and has issued guidance for employers, but the agency determined that a new emergency temporary standard was not necessary. While the agency has cited more companies for coronavirus-related risks over the past several months, critics say the companies have only been punished with minor fines.
New Jersey’s new car dealers have been proactive, with hundreds having already adopted the NJ CAR Clean protocols derived from CDC, OSHA, DOH and other guidelines and designed to ensure dealer provide a safe and healthy retail experience for customers and employees.
State-level business groups, like NJ CAR, continue to make it clear that the health safety of customers and employees is the main priority of the business community, but any restrictions placed on small businesses must NOT be unrealistically cumbersome.
NJ CAR will continue to keep dealers informed of any mandates that impact their operations.