Thursday, August 13, 2020

State Issues New Enforcement Rules of Face Coverings and Gatherings

Are you an employer who is still having trouble convincing staff that it is essential to wear face coverings in the workplace if social distancing cannot be guaranteed? Maybe this will help. As was reported recently by Julie Tappendorf and Eugene Bolotnikov, in Ancel Glink’s sister blog, Municipal Minute, the State is taking further steps to enforce COVID-19 safety guidelines for face coverings and gatherings as follows:

State of Illinois Adopts Emergency Enforcement Rules on Face Coverings and Gatherings 

Last week, Governor Pritzker announced that his administration filed new IDPH COVID-19 emergency rules for businesses, schools, and child care establishments regarding the use of face coverings and the size of gatherings.

The rules became effective on August 7, 2020, and they require people over age two to wear a face-covering (a mask or cloth face covering to cover their nose and mouth) when they are in a public place and unable to maintain at least a six-foot social distance. The face-covering requirement applies whether in an indoor space, such as a store or in an outdoor space. Any business, service, facility, or organization open to the public or to employees (including schools and daycares) must require employees, customers, and other individuals on the premises to cover their nose and mouth with a face covering when on premises. The emergency rule also prohibits gatherings of more than 50 people (or gatherings of 50% or more of a building’s maximum occupancy if 50% of a building maximum occupancy is less than 50 people).

The rules provide multiple opportunities for compliance before a penalty is issued. The rules acknowledge that communities may be reluctant to employ existing, pre-pandemic enforcement laws (like revoking a license) so the new rules are intended to provide some flexibility but also more control to keep residents and businesses safe.

The new enforcement-and-penalty process is described as follows:

  • First, businesses would be given a warning in the form of written notice and encouraged to voluntarily comply with public health guidance.
  • Second, businesses that do not voluntarily comply would be given an order to have some or all of their patrons leave the premises as needed to comply with public health guidance and reduce risks.
  • Third, if the business continues to refuse to comply, the business could be subject to a fine ranging from $75.00 to $2,500.00.

The emergency rules also reinforce the authority of IDPH and local health departments to investigate COVID-19 cases and reaffirm that businesses have a responsibility to cooperate with those investigations.

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf & Eugene Bolotnikov, Ancel Glink

Employers themselves, as well as their workers, may have personal opinions that differ from state requirements on face coverings and gathering limitations, but with actual penalties attached to violating the guidelines for such, may make compliance and enforcement a bit easier. Following the State’s “carrot and stick” method of gaining compliance on these safety guidelines, when employee education and encouragement do not gain compliance, penalties must follow. Now an employee’s failure to comply with these requirements can lead to monetary penalties against the employer. If safety were not enough of an incentive, maybe this will help.