What Employers in Ohio Must Do to Return to Work


On Monday, April 27, Governor DeWine announced plans to restart businesses throughout Ohio in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the following days, he revised his plan, particularly as to the requirement of wearing face coverings. A phased restart, called the Responsible Restart Ohio plan, will begin next week. Below please find the up-to-date order:

  • Beginning May 4 – Manufacturing, distribution, construction and general office environments may reopen if they satisfy mandatory safety requirements for employees and guests;
  • Beginning May 12th – Consumer, retail and service establishments meeting mandatory safety requirements can reopen. However, a wide array of such establishments are to remain closed, including eat-in restaurants, bars, hair salons and gyms, for the time being.
  • The general safe business practices that all business and work sites, including those which have remained open, must follow include:
    • Ensuring a minimum six feet between people; if not possible, install barriers.
    • Conducting daily health assessments focusing on COVID-19 symptoms.
    • Maintaining good hygiene through hand washing and sanitizing.
    • Frequent disinfection of desks, workstations and high-contact surfaces throughout the workday, between shifts and at closing.
    • Face coverings are required for all employees, unless not advisable by a healthcare professional, against documented industry best practices, or not permitted by federal or state laws/regulations. A face covering is not required if an employee is working alone in an enclosed office space.

These general guidelines should be implemented along with the constantly evolving guidance provided to date by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and OSHA Publication 4002, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). For instance, the EEOC has indicated that employers may require employees to submit to temperature checks without violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Significantly, the EEOC also has stated that employers may administer COVID-19 tests to employees once FDA-approved safe and accurate tests are available. Employers also may require an employee to provide medical certification establishing fitness for duty before returning to work from a coronavirus-related illness.

As to manufacturing operations, the Governor has directed that businesses “establish maximum capacity (e.g., 50% of fire code).” Start times, breaks and lunch time also should be staggered to limit contact with co-workers. Employers also must regulate the maximum number of people in cafeterias and common areas at one time.

Maximum capacity also should be established at 50% of fire code for general office environments. Employers must make efforts to reduce the sharing of work materials. Employers are required to cancel or postpone in-person events when social distancing guidelines cannot be met. They are required to limit travel by employees as much as possible. In addition, businesses should avoid congregation in office spaces.

Face coverings are required by all employees in retail establishments subject to the above-indicated exceptions. Customers are not required to wear masks, but owners of such establishments may require them to wear face coverings. Maximum capacity (e.g. 50% of fire code) must be observed. Hand sanitizers must be placed in high-contact locations, and high-touch items, such as carts and keypads, should be cleaned after each use.

Employers must require employees to stay at home if symptomatic. For confirmed cases, employers should immediately isolate and seek medical care for any individual who develops symptoms at work. Employers should contact the local health district about suspected cases or exposures. They also should shut down the shop/floor for deep sanitation if possible.

The Governor encouraged employers to continue to allow employees to work from home, if feasible. He also recommended that employers consider providing a stipend to employees for private, as opposed to public transportation. We have seen employers take these “extra steps,” such as engaging an on-site medical professional to assess employee wellness, to attempt to safeguard workers, customers and other guests.

Guidance from a variety of sources will continue to be issued. Employers must continue to monitor all orders, guidelines and recommendations as the COVID-19 situation continues to develop.

Updated 04/29/2020 10:30 p.m. ET

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