Governor Gina Raimondo issued an Executive Order which takes effect Saturday, April 18, 2020, requiring that all customer/client-facing businesses and non-profit organizations, all office space businesses and non-profit organizations, and any other business categories determined by the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation (“DBR”) that are still in operation, provide their employees cloth face coverings to wear while at work. The only exception to the Executive Order are for employees who can easily, continuously and measurably maintain at least six (6) feet of distance from other employees for the duration of his or her work day. An example used in the Executive Order is employees who have their own office. All such employees must wear face coverings in any common areas of the business, including, but not limited to, any entry, exit and common areas of the business, any check-in, registration, or reception area, hallways, bathrooms, break rooms, time clock areas, elevators and stairways.
Businesses that are still in operation and fit the description of businesses covered by the Executive Order must provide face coverings at their own expense, or the materials for the making of such covering by their employees. Such coverings or materials must be made available staff-wide or individually upon employee request so long as the result is an organization-wide use of face coverings. Employees must also be allowed to fashion their own face coverings if they so determine. A link to a CDC tutorial for do-it-yourself cloth face masks is available at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html.
DBR has been given enforcement authority to make sure that employers are following this Executive Order and DBR has been authorized to take any action, and to make and enforce any rules or regulations necessary to implement the Executive Order requiring that employees wear face coverings. Such actions may include unannounced visits and inspections of the State’s workplaces. Employers that do not provide face coverings to employees may also be assessed civil penalties by DBR.
It is likely that the rules and regulations that DBR will issue will broadly define employers covered by the Executive Order requiring face coverings for employees. Employers should keep this in mind when determining how to comply with this Executive Order.
Businesses with questions concerning Governor Raimondo’s Executive Order requiring face coverings for employee should contact a member of the Adler Pollock & Sheehan Labor and Employment Group: Robert P. Brooks (email: firstname.lastname@example.org); Michael D. Chittick (email: email@example.com)