Executive Summary: Over the past few days, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont has issued Executive Orders 7V, 7W and 7X, the latest in a series of Executive Orders directed toward the COVID-19 pandemic.

Executive Order 7V imposed further requirements on essential businesses for the protection of their employees, relaxed licensing and permit requirements for certain health care workers, and provided immunity from liability for common law claims against health care providers related to COVID-19 care. Executive Order 7W provided, among other things, that employers’ experience ratings will not increase as a result of COVID-19 unemployment claims. Finally, Executive Order 7X extended the closure of non-essential Connecticut businesses to May 20, 2020.

Non-Essential Business to Remain Closed Until At Least May 20

On April 10, 2020, Governor Lamont issued Executive Order 7X, extending the closures, social distancing and safety measures outlined in prior Executive Orders through Wednesday, May 20, 2020. Specifically, Executive Order 7X extended the measures outlined in Executive Orders 7D(2), 7D(3), 7D(4), 7F(1), 7F(2), 7H(1), 7N(1) and 7N(3). For more details on the earlier Executive Orders, please see our March 17, March 19, and March 23 Legal Alerts. A prior Executive Order had closed businesses through April 22, 2020.

COVID-19 Unemployment Claims Will Not Increase Employers’ Experience Ratings

On April 9, 2020, Governor Lamont issued Executive Order 7W. Relevant to employers is section 7W(2), which provides that employers’ base period contributing accounts will not be charged for benefits paid to unemployed workers due to partial or total unemployment attributable to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Ordinarily, an employer’s experience rating for unemployment insurance is based upon prior unemployment benefits paid on the employer’s behalf.

Employers Must Expand Protective Measures for Essential Employees

Executive Order 7V, issued on April 7, 2020, requires that essential employers expand the protective measures they are taking to reduce the spread of COVID-19 between and among employees, customers and other persons. The Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) has issued a series of “Safe Workplace Rules for Essential Employees,” many of which are summarized below. Click here for the complete guidelines.

General

  1. Essential employees who CAN work from home MUST do so;
  2. Employees who have recently traveled internationally where COVID-19 is present, or have returned from a cruise, should stay home and self-monitor for fourteen days;
  3. All non-essential workplace travel is prohibited;
  4. Employers should distribute summaries of health insurance processes and procedures to employees; and
  5. Employers should control work site access by prohibiting entry by non-essential visitors, screening approved visitors regarding their current health and recent travel history, and providing hand sanitizer at points of entry to their facilities.

Controlling contact between and among employees and customers

Employers should:

  1. Develop and implement practices for social distancing;
  2. Eliminate in-person meetings;
  3. Discourage car-pooling;
  4. Use physical barriers such as drive-throughs or Plexiglas partitions between employees and customers;
  5. Deliver services remotely where practical;
  6. Use curbside pickup or delivery where possible;
  7. Adjust shift assignments and work schedules at workplaces with multiple shifts to improve social distancing and adjusting break times to minimize employees congregating at time clocks or in break areas;
  8. Close or restrict break areas and cafeterias, and encourage employees to bring meals from home.
  9. Increase ventilation rates and the percentage of outside air in ventilation systems where possible;
  10. Where possible, segment workforces into discrete zones and prohibit employees from entering zones where they are not required to perform work; and
  11. Shut down operations at manufacturing facilities when production is not needed.

Eliminating transmission points

  1. Reduce common touch points by opening internal doors, and secure secondary doors and access points to minimize incidental contact;
  2. Use non-touch disposable receptacles or remove lids from non-hazardous waste containers;
  3. Frequently clean all touch points using recommended disinfectants that are appropriate for the surface, and provide disposable wipes for employees to clean commonly used surfaces;
  4. Prohibit employees from using other workers’ work spaces and equipment, and clean and disinfect work spaces and shared equipment before and after use; and
  5. Follow CDC recommendations for disinfecting areas if an employee is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19.

Guidelines for essential employees

  1. Employees should stay home if sick;
  2. Employees should check their temperature before reporting to work, and stay home if the temperature is over 100.4 degrees;
  3. Employees should be provided with access to hand sanitizer if they do not have ready access to handwashing stations;
  4. Employers should place posters in the workplace that encourage good hand hygiene; and
  5. Employees should be reminded to wash hands frequently, avoid touching their face, and to wear cloth face masks.

Permit and License Requirements Temporarily Waived for Health Care Workers

Executive Order 7V waives application fees and permit or licensure requirements for certain health care workers.

1. The time limits for temporary permits for certain health care workers have been extended, and certain permitting fees have been waived during the pandemic. The impacted professions are:

  • Athletic Trainers
  • Respiratory Care Practitioners
  • Physician Assistants
  • Occupational Therapists/Assistants
  • Master Social Workers

2. The time period during which health care profession applicants and graduates can engage in supervised practice before licensure has been extended for individuals in the following professions:

  • Physical Therapists
  • Physical Therapy Assistants
  • Radiographers
  • Registered Nurses
  • Nurse Practitioners
  • Clinical Nurse Specialists
  • Nurse Anesthetists
  • Marital and family therapy associates
  • Professional counselor associates

Executive Order 7V also expands the provisions of Executive Order 7U to provide immunity from liability to certain health care practitioners and providers for common law claims arising from actions taken in good faith during the pandemic.

Employers’ Bottom Line: With non-essential businesses closed for another month and new Executive Orders issued by the Governor almost daily, all Connecticut employers are encouraged to read the latest Executive Orders and DECD Guidance to ensure compliance. The Orders and Guidance are available here and here.