An executive order signed by Gov. Phil Murphy that expands worker protections during the COVID pandemic is now in effect.

It specifies employers must make sure all workers have their temperatures checked when they arrive at the office, that they stay socially distanced, wear masks when practicable and get enough breaks to wash their hands.

In addition employers must provide masks to employees and make sure high-touch areas are sanitized on a regular basis.

The state Department of Labor and Workforce Development has set up an online complaint form workers can use to report violations.

Labor Commissioner Rob Asaro-Angelo said each complaint will be reviewed and evaluated based on the specifics of the situation. He said that means if someone complains their manager ran out of masks at 4:45 in the afternoon, that won't get the same attention as a complaint about an employer forcing employees to work side by side without protection.

Labor Department investigators might follow-up with employers and perform inspections.

"We fully expect that almost all complaints will be dealt with and achieve compliance in short order, working cooperatively with the employer," he said. “We don’t anticipate any issues where we would have to call the police.”

He said the Labor Department has the right “to investigate any facility, whether it be about safety or wage-and-hour complaints or anything else. We are empowered to fully investigate any of the measures that might be violated in this executive order.”

He stressed that the vast majority of businesses are complying with these new regulations.

“They have been our partners since Day 1 of this pandemic to help reduce the spread of COVID by protecting themselves, their workforce and their customers," he said. “This will all help to protect workers, business owners, customers, their families and the communities in which they live."

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