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On May 1 certain ILLINOIS employers got the green light to begin reopening, after the entry of a modified statewide stay-at-home order. Employers must require employees to maintain social distancing or must wear masks provided by the Company. We take you through the details below:

What does the order say about face covering, social distancing, and hygiene for business employers?

The order’s requirements for business employers depends on the type of business.

Are there rules for non-essential stores?

Non-essential stores can reopen only to fulfill telephone and online orders for pickup outside of the store or delivery. Employees working inside the store must follow Social Distancing Requirements (see below) and wear a face mask when within 6-feet of another employee or customer.

What does the order require of essential retail store employers?

For essential retail stores (including stores that sell groceries and medicine, hardware stores, and greenhouses, garden centers, and nurseries), the employer must:

  • provide face coverings to all employees who are not able to maintain a
    minimum six-foot social distance at all times;
  • cap occupancy at 50 percent of store capacity (or, alternatively, at
    occupancy limits based on square footage set by the Department of
    Commerce and Economic Opportunity);
  • make and mark store aisles one-way where practicable;
  • communicate with customers through signage, PSAs and advertisements about Social Distancing Requirements; and
  • discontinue use of reusable bags.

Employers should pay for and provide face coverings for employees on the retail floor as it will be difficult for employees on the retail floor to maintain a six-foot social distance from all other people (including customers) at all times.

What does the order require of manufacturing employers?

Manufacturers must follow Social Distancing Requirements (see below) and take “appropriate precautions,” which, under the order, may include providing face coverings to all employees who cannot maintain a six-foot social distance at all times; staggering shifts; reducing line speeds; operating only essential lines; ensuring all spaces where employees gather (such as lunchrooms) allow for social distancing; and downsizing operations if necessary to allow for a safe workplace.

Employers whose operations allow for social distancing at all times do not have to provide employees with face coverings. But if operations require employees to come within six-feet of one another at any time, employers must provide face coverings.

What are the current Social Distancing Requirements in Illinois?

Social Distancing Requirements include:

  • Designating six-foot distances with signage, tape, or other means to allow appropriate spacing.
  • Having hand sanitizer and sanitizing products readily available for employees and customers.
  • Establishing separate operating hours for elderly and vulnerable customers.
  • Posting online/via remote access a facility’s status and continuing services by phone or remotely.
  • Providing employees with appropriate face coverings and requiring that face coverings be worn when a six-foot social distance is not possible at all times.
  • If circumstances require, employers must provide employees with other applicable personal protective equipment.

It appears I’ll need to offer face coverings to my employees. What kind of face covering am I required to provide?

Any “mask or cloth face-covering” is sufficient to meet the Reopening Order’s requirements. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends cloth face coverings. At the moment the CDC  recommends that N95 masks not be provided to employees because these masks are in short supply and should be reserved for healthcare workers. If you do offer N95 masks to employees, be sure to comply with OSHA’s enforcement guidance for N95 respirators.

My employees have already complained about wearing face coverings. Is there anything I can do to better ensure social distancing?

The answer to this will be case-by-case, depending on your workplace. For instance, if you are an employer in the manufacturing sector, you may have three different scenarios to consider.

  1. An employee with a defined and fairly stable workstation, such as an employee who has a well-established “spot” on an assembly line. SOLUTION: Mark the workstation on the floor, and then mark off an area on the floor which is 6 feet from the boundary of the work station. The employee works inside the smaller circle, and the outer circle marks the six foot boundary.  When the employee moves out of the inner circle into the outer boundary (closer to other employees), the employee wears a mask. If a coworker enters the outer boundary, both employees wear a mask.
  2. An employee in an office area who sits mostly at a desk in an area 6 feet from other co-workers, but from time to time visits a copy machine in a high-traffic area. SOLUTION: The employee does not wear a mask while sitting at his or her desk, but would need to wear a mask before walking to the copy machine if an encounter with a coworker is anticipated.
  3. An employee drives a forklift that roves through a warehouse, coming within 6 feet of others on a regular basis. SOLUTION: This employee must wear a mask at all times unless the employee is in an area where a six foot barrier can be marked and maintained (such as a loading dock if only one truck is being operated).

Though the order requires employers to take additional actions to help stop the spread of COVID-19, employers can determine the best practical and least-disruptive way to implement those changes. Look to Baker McKenzie to keep you updated with additional guidance as Illinois looks to June 1 for a possible end of the statewide stay-at-home order.