Oregon Issues New COVID-19 Guidance for Employers, Including Updated Face Covering Requirements

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On the same day that Oregon’s statewide “freeze” went into effect, which we blogged about at Oregon Orders a Statewide “Freeze” Due to COVID-19 Surge, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) issued new face covering guidance and new guidance for employers.  

Face Covering Guidance

Under the new face covering guidance, employees working in cubicles or similar settings must wear face coverings at all times except when eating or drinking, even if the individual workstations are more than six feet apart. While an employee in a “private individual workspace” need not wear a face covering, the new guidance limits “private individual workspace” to a space that is used by one individual at a time and is enclosed on all sides with floor-to-ceiling walls and a closed door (in other words, a traditional, private office). This is a departure from prior guidance, where “private individual workspace” was not so strictly defined.

Employer Guidance

The general employer guidance largely reiterates existing guidance, including that Oregon employers must comply with the new OR-OSHA rules, which we blogged about at OR-OSHA Publishes Model Infection Control Policy Required by New COVID- 19 Rules. The guidance also includes the following:

Remote work. The guidance provides that employers must require remote work, if possible, for all employees. If remote work for all employees is not possible, employers should prioritize remote work for individuals considered to be at higher risk of COVID complications due to an existing medical condition.

Time off work. Employers must keep individuals with COVID symptoms out of the workplace and should communicate with employees about the expectation that sick employees not come to work and what types of leave may be available to them. Under the new guidance, if federal or state protected leave is not available, employers must, “if feasible,” adopt a temporary flexible time off policy to accommodate employee leave needs.

Employee testing. The OHA discourages employers from requiring that employees test negative before returning to work, unless such testing is recommended by health authorities. (As a general matter, the OHA does not recommend testing of asymptomatic individuals, even if an individual was exposed to COVID.) However, other agencies, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, have noted that employers may require that employees be tested in order to prevent a direct threat to other employees in the workplace.

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