Governor Brian Kemp issued an Executive Order on March 12th – valid until March 31st – that removes many of the requirements for companies that were in previous Executive Orders, but includes a selection of the provisions from Executive Orders from recent months of 2020. What do employers need to know about this new order and what should you do when you reopen and operate your business?
Last order compared to previous orders
The March 12 Executive Order removes many of the requirements from previous orders as vaccines are introduced nationwide. For example, bars in Georgia, when licensed under OCGA Section 3-1-2 (2.1), no longer have an occupancy limit of 50 people or 35 percent and no longer fall under their own category of COVID-19 mitigation measures. and now just needs to meet the Georgian requirements for restaurants.
The Executive Order of March 12 also significantly reduces the requirements for restaurants (and bars) and removes the explicit requirement that employees’ workplaces must be two meters apart, the ban on shaking hands, the limitation on the number of people in break rooms , the emphasis on reservation-only and call-ahead service, and general guidelines on social distancing, although seats must still be three feet apart or separated by partitions. Other companies in an office setting, and most other companies not named in the March 12 Executive Order, are also seeing the removal of distancing requirements between employee workplaces.
What should employers do?
As we advised employers when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eased their COVID-19 guidelines, employers should follow the stricter OSHA guidelines that apply to their jobs – even if they do more workers and members in attendance are public to be vaccinated. As discussed in detail here, OSHA has just passed a National Priority Program (NEP) for COVID-19. Given the increased resources OSHA will use under the NEP to enforce existing safety standards and the general mandatory clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, employers should now follow a five-step plan to prepare for a visit to OSHA, including accepting a written one COVID-19 policy. The Virginia Model COVID-19 Response Plan is a good starting point for creating a COVID-19 plan that complies with federal OSHA guidelines.
While Georgia is eliminating certain country-specific requirements related to COVID-19 mitigation, the pandemic is not over and all employers should continue to monitor and improve worker safety as they get more workers back to work in the coming months .
J. Micah Dickie is an attorney with Fisher Phillips in Atlanta. © 2021 Fisher Phillips. All rights reserved. Republished with permission.