Coronavirus Updates for the Seneca Chamber Community
Greetings Chamber Community,

In our commitment to serving the local business community, we have gathered some useful information and resources to help your business or family plan for and deal with this ongoing situation. As more information becomes available, we will continue to update our website ( and social media ( facebook/DiscoverSeneca).
Employee Facemask Protection Requirement:
On Monday, Governor Cuomo signed an Executive Order requiring all essential employers to provide “face coverings” for any employee who has direct contact with the public. This mandate takes effect at 8:00 PM tonight, April 15 . Failure to comply is a violation of §12 or 12-b of the Public Health Law.

For a Descriptive Poster from the Seneca County Health Dept: Click Here

For Official Department Of Health Guidance :
Guidance on the Executive Order:
The NYS Department of Health posted guidance on how employers must comply with this order. Highlights of the guidance include:

  • Face coverings include, but are not limited to, cloth (e.g. homemade sewn, quick cut, bandana), surgical masks, N-95 respirators, and face shields and must be provided to employees at no cost
  • Direct interaction with the public shall be determined by the employer, but, at a minimum, shall include any employee who is routinely within close contact (i.e. six feet or less) with members of the public, including but not limited to customers or clients
  • Employees are allowed to use their own face coverings, but shall not be mandated to do so by their employer
  • Employees are required to wear such face coverings…except where doing so would inhibit or otherwise impair the employee’s health. Employers are prohibited from requesting or requiring medical or other documentation from an employee who declines to wear a face covering due to a medical or other health condition that prevents such usage
  • Such employees - and other employees who may be vulnerable to COVID-19 due to age or underlying health condition - should consult with their employer to consider reasonable accommodations, including but not limited to different PPE, alternate work location, or alternate work assignment with fewer interactions with the public
  • If an employer is unable to procure, fashion, or otherwise obtain face coverings for their employees, they may consult with their local office of emergency management to determine if extra supplies exist
  • Employers are also required to provide such face coverings for contractors, including independent contractors

More Guidance on Facemask Protection:
The guidance acknowledges that shortages of face coverings exist and are prioritized for health care workers. However, “not being able to source face coverings does not relieve an employer’s obligation to provide such face coverings to their employees.”
Employees who refuse to wear a face covering for health reasons could pose a significant problem as employers are expressly prohibited from requiring medical documentation to support such a claim. As you know, both the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) and NYS Human Rights Law (HRL) require employers engage in an “interactive process” with employees to determine reasonable accommodations for qualified individuals with disabilities. Not having supporting documentation - not engaging in this process - then reassigning individuals per the guidance could possibly result in claims of discrimination based underlying health conditions.
It appears that the guidance would allow such employees to continue to work in positions with public contact. However, an employer must weigh the customer and public relations risk of doing so. Customers and clients will be well aware of the face covering requirement and, finding an employee not wearing one, could assume non-compliance.
Additionally, although many of you have implemented workplace practices (limiting cash handling, etc.) and physical barriers (plexiglass shields, etc.) between your employees and the public, the guidance does not appear to relieve you of the responsibility of providing face coverings and requiring employees to use them.
Note also that the Executive Order does not relieve an employer’s responsibilities under OSHA. The N95 mask, commonly in use during this pandemic, is included in OSHA’s Respiratory Protection Standard (29 CFR § 1910.134). This standard requires that in any workplace where respirators are necessary to protect the health of the employee or whenever respirators are required by the employer, the employer shall implement and maintain a written respiratory protection program with worksite-specific procedures. The written plan shall include:

  • Procedures for selecting respirators for use in the workplace
  • Medical evaluations of employees required to use respirators
  • Fit testing procedures for tight-fitting respirators
  • Procedures for proper use of respirators in routine and reasonably foreseeable emergency situations
  • Procedures and schedules for cleaning, disinfecting, storing, inspecting, repairing, discarding, and otherwise maintaining respirators
  • Procedures to ensure adequate air quality, quantity, and flow of breathing air for atmosphere-supplying respirators
  • Training of employees in the respiratory hazards to which they are potentially exposed during routine and emergency situations
  • Training of employees in the proper use of respirators, including putting on and removing them, any limitations on their use, and their maintenance; and
  • Where respirator use is not required:
Ordinary surgical masks, sewn cloth masks or bandanas would not require a written OSHA plan.
As mentioned above, this requirement becomes effective 8:00 PM on April 15 for all essential businesses and entities
This email made possible by the investment support of our Chamber members and partners, including the Chamber Platinum members:
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