Know the Law: Mask and Face Covering Requirements in New Hampshire Workplaces

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Linda S. Johnson
Director, Litigation Department and Chair of Education Law Group
Published: Union Leader
May 26, 2020
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Q.  I have been reading about requirements that employees in New Hampshire are supposed to wear masks when they come to work.  Is that the case for all New Hampshire businesses?

A. Emergency Order #40 was issued by Governor Sununu on May 1, 2020 and is to remain in effect until May 31, 2020.  It provides guidance as to when masks are required in New Hampshire workplaces and under what conditions, if any, an employer can allow an employee to not wear a mask or face covering while at work.  Importantly, it applies to all businesses and organizations that have been deemed essential and remained open during any past NH “Stay at Home” order, and also applies to all businesses and organizations that are reopening all or a portion of their operations.  Moreover, it provides more specific guidance for certain industries, including hospitals, manufacturing, retail, golf courses, cosmetology (barbershops and salons), the food services industry, campgrounds, state parks, and drive-in movie theaters.

Generally, the Order states that all employees should wear a cloth face covering at work when they are in potentially close contact with others and social distancing is not possible, and employers should support the use of such face coverings.   For some industries, such as barbershops and hair salons, staff and even customers must wear a face covering at all times even when they are not in close contact with others.

Additionally, Order #40 states:

  1. People wearing face coverings must not touch their eyes, nose, mouth, or face, or adjust their facemask without first sanitizing hands;
  2. After touching your face or adjusting your mask, hands must be sanitized;
  3. In some industries, employees must be provided with training on cloth face coverings based on CDC guidance and employees should review the CDC’s guidance on use of cloth face coverings;
  4. Surgical facemasks can be considered in place of a cloth face covering if available; however, higher-level respiratory masks (e.g., N95 masks) are NOT appropriate, and medical-grade masks should be reserved for healthcare workers or first responders; and
  5. Cloth face coverings worn by employees should be kept clean in accordance with CDC guidance.

In conclusion, Order #40 contains important information that various industries must keep in mind when updating their policies and practices in light of COVID-19.  As always, circumstances surrounding COVID-19 are rapidly changing, and employers should continue to monitor additional updates released by state and federal authorities in order to ensure that they are compliant with the latest guidelines and regulations.

Know the Law is a bi-weekly column sponsored by McLane Middleton, Professional Association.  We invite your questions of business law.  Questions and ideas for future columns should be emailed to [email protected].  Please note – Know the Law provides general legal information, not legal advice.  We recommend that you consult a lawyer for guidance specific to your particular situation.