NEW JERSEY– The New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (NJDOL) received 1,181 complaints from workers and customers in the first four weeks of Governor Phil Murphy’s executive order expanding workplace protections during COVID-19.
Of those complaints, 237 cases have been investigated and resolved by the NJDOL, with 159 of those cases closed after employers documented their efforts to comply with the executive order, such as providing photographs, purchase orders or receipts for safety equipment. The remaining 78 cases were referred to appropriate state agencies.
There were 456 cases of alleged violations under investigation by the NJDOL, and 488 cases pending assignment to an investigator. Though approximately 60 percent of all complaints have been submitted anonymously, which can complicate the investigation process, the Department continues to review and address all incoming complaints and conduct investigations to the maximum extent possible.
“Our mission is to ensure that businesses remaining open during COVID-19 do so responsibly, and this executive order allows us to do just that – keep public- and private-sector workplaces safe for employees and customers alike,” said Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo. “The overwhelming majority of businesses are complying with CDC and state guidelines; those who have been reported have come into compliance once notified by our investigators to do so.”
The NJDOL, in collaboration with workforce training partners, has established compliance and safety training for employers and employees. To date, five outreach events have been held to educate the public on the executive order. Forty-four worker trainers have been provided with 528 total hours of training, and those trainers have delivered 2,230 training hours to 1,115 workers.
“I am proud of the work my team is doing to protect New Jersey workers, and thankful to Gov. Murphy for providing us with the tools we need to do so,” the Commissioner added.
Executive Order No. 192 went into effect on November 5, mandating that private and public sector employers, including state and local government entities, adhere to certain health and safety standards in an effort to protect employees and visitors at in-person workplaces. The protocols include requirements regarding mask wearing, physical distancing, the provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and sanitization materials, proper hand hygiene and sanitizing of high-touch areas, daily health checks, applicable leave time for sick employees, and prompt notification of Covid-19 exposure at the workplace.
“With the introduction of a vaccine, New Jersey is now one step closer to stopping the spread of COVID-19 in our state,” said Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. “It is imperative that businesses continue to impose the COVID-19 mitigation protocols put in place to protect the health of their workers and the community.”
In response to the executive order, the NJDOL launched a website with information regarding the new health and safety requirements, as well as an intake form through which workers or their representatives can report employers who are alleged to be noncompliant.
New Jersey is one of 14 states across the nation to implement comprehensive statewide standards for worker protections related to Covid-19, but is the only state to expand its jurisdiction to the private sector to protect workers during the pandemic.
Both public- and private-sector workers are covered under the executive order, which is being administered by NJDOL and its sister agency, the Department of Health (DOH). The Public Employees Occupational Safety and Health (PEOSH) Act continues to cover the public sector, and any enforcement actions for the public sector would continue to be enforced by the NJDOL.