The city released the document as employers begin to look forward to the gradual reopening of the Pennsylvania economy. Although Governor Wolf has suggested Philadelphia may be among the last areas to resume normal operations, essential businesses including, but not limited to, grocery stores, gas stations, and pharmacies are permitted to stay open subject to several important restrictions.
The new Philadelphia guidance appears to reflect procedures ordered by the Pennsylvania Department of Health on April 15, 2020. The May 5, 2020 guidance is designed to, “assist essential businesses and organizations in understanding best practices in the current environment to keep you and your staff safe.”
In addition to physical distancing, frequent handwashing, and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces, the Philadelphia guidance contains several pages of detailed instructions. These include:
Much of the new guidance focuses on how to respond to a possible or confirmed case of COVID-19 in the workplace. After a possible exposure, the city instructs employers to pre-screen employee body temperatures, enforce strict adherence on worker protections, and notify the Philadelphia Department of Public Health if the business requires exposed workers to continue working.
The city recommends essential businesses create a Continuity of Operations Plan to address the potential for employee absenteeism. The guidance places emphasis on specific physical precautions including the use of masks, staggering employee work times, and using plastic barriers to separate employees from customers. The city also offers notices and signage for employers to post in the workplace.
The city encourages employers to develop flexible polices to allow employees to stay at home is a family member is ill. Employers are also encouraged to inform employees about benefits available through the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
Although the May 5, 2020 guidance does not address enforcement, the April 15, 2020, Pennsylvania Department of Health Order remains in effect making employers subject to state enforcement actions.
Philadelphia is not expected to fully reopen all businesses for several weeks, however, the city has incrementally relaxed specific restrictions. On April 29, 2020, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney signed an executive order allowing the reopening of several categories of construction projects subject to limitations starting May 1, 2020.
The Coronavirus Task Force at Klehr Harrison stands ready to assist you in your business and legal needs. We will continue to provide additional information and guidance as the COVID-19 situation develops.
Author Gaetano Piccirilli is a partner in the Litigation Department at Klehr Harrison.