USA: New York State Issues Reopening Requirements and Guidance for Office-Based Work

As part of its “New York Forward” reopening plan1 for “Phase II” businesses, New York State authorized office-based businesses (other than medical offices) to reopen on June 22, 2020; provided they meet certain “minimum” requirements in light of COVID-19. These requirements must be met for office-based businesses to reopen, as well as by office-based businesses that have already reopened. They are in addition to requirements of the New York State Department of Health (“DOH”) and applicable federal requirements (such as from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”)).

  • To reopen, every company must have a written Safety Plan outlining how its workplace will prevent the spread of COVID-19. Companies may use the template attached to this Advisory or develop their own plan. The Safety Plan must be retained on-site, posted conspicuously, and made available to the DOH or local authorities upon request.

  • The Safety Plan must comply with the “minimum” requirements contained in the attached “Summary Guidelines” and detailed “Interim Guidance”.

  • Companies are required to submit an online affirmation to the State confirming that they have read and understand their obligation to operate in accordance with the State’s Interim Guidance. A copy of the affirmation is attached to this Advisory and a link to the form can be found at

Set forth below is a summary of the requirements contained in the Summary Guidelines and Interim Guidance. The Summary Guidelines also contain recommended best practices that companies should review and consider incorporating into their Safety Plans.

Physical Distancing

  • Limit the total number of occupants at any given time to no more than 50% of the maximum occupancy (based on the certificate of occupancy).

  • Require all individuals to maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from each other.

  • Require workers and visitors to wear face masks if they come within 6 feet of each other.

  • Close or reconfigure any common seating areas (such as reception areas) to ensure that individuals are at least 6 feet apart in all directions.

  • Reconfigure or restrict the number of workstations, employee seating areas, and desks, so that employees are at least 6 feet apart in all directions. When distancing is not feasible between workstations, face masks or physical barriers (such as plastic shielding) are required in accordance with OSHA guidelines.

  • Limit the use of shared workstations, and clean and disinfect workstations between users.

  • Prohibit the use of small confined spaces (such as elevators, supply rooms, personal offices, and vehicles) by more than one individual at a time unless everyone wears a face mask and occupancy is limited to under 50% of maximum capacity.

  • Reduce interpersonal contact and congregation (such as by adjusting workplace hours, limiting in-person presence to necessary staff, design changes, and staggering arrival/departure times).

  • Close non-essential common areas (such as gyms, pools, and game areas).

  • Consider limiting occupancy or closing nonessential-essential amenities and communal areas that do not allow for social distancing. Provide hand sanitizer or disinfecting wipes next to equipment near amenities (such as vending machines and communal coffee machines).

Protective Equipment

  • Provide employees and contractors with face masks at no cost to them, unless they choose to use their own face masks.

  • Ensure that face masks are cleaned (if applicable) or replaced after use, and prohibit the sharing of face masks.

  • Train employees on how to put on, take off, clean (if applicable), and discard face masks.

  • Advise workers and visitors to wear face masks in common areas (such as elevators and lobbies) and when traveling around the office.

  • Limit the sharing of equipment (such as laptop computers, telephones, and writing utensils) as well as the touching of shared surfaces.

  • Require workers to wear gloves when in contact with shared equipment or frequently touched surfaces, or to sanitize their hands before and after contact.

Hygiene, Cleaning, and Disinfection

  • Clean and disinfect the worksite at least daily, and more frequently clean and disinfect high risk areas (such as restrooms) and frequently touched surfaces.

  • Adhere to cleaning guidance from the CDC and DOH, and maintain cleaning logs on-site.

  • Provide and encourage employees to use hand hygiene stations in the office and hand sanitizer where handwashing is not feasible.

  • Provide and encourage employees to use cleaning and disinfecting supplies before and after the use of shared and frequently touched surfaces, and then clean their hands.

  • Clean and disinfect exposed areas in the event an individual is confirmed to have COVID- 19.

  • Prohibit shared food and beverages among employees.


  • Affirm that your company has reviewed and understands the State-issued guidelines, and will implement them.

  • Post signs inside and outside of the worksite to remind employees and visitors to adhere to proper hygiene, social distancing rules, wearing face masks, and cleaning and disinfecting rules.

  • Train all employees on the new rules and frequently communicate safety information.

  • Notify and cooperate with state and local health departments with contact tracing if an employee or visitor tests positive for COVID-19.

  • Conspicuously post Safety Plans on-site.


  • Implement daily health screening practices – of employees (either by questionnaires or temperature checks) and, where practicable, of visitors. Questionnaires must ask about (i) any COVID-19 symptoms in the past 14 days, (ii) a positive COVID-19 test in the past 14 days, and/or (iii) any contact with someone having a confirmed or suspected COVID-19 case in the past 14 days. Employees must immediately disclose if and when their responses to such questions change.

  • Protect and train personnel performing screening activities in accordance with CDC, DOH, and OSHA protocols.

  • Prevent anyone who screens positive for COVID-19 symptoms from entering the worksite. An individual who screens positive for COVID-19 must be sent home with instructions to contact their healthcare provider for assessment and testing.

  • Immediately notify state and local health departments of confirmed positive COVID-19 cases.

  • Companies are responsible for screening their own employees and visitors unless they have agreed with building management to perform such screening on their behalf.

  • Designate a contact person (site safety monitor) who will receive and review employee questionnaires, temperature checks, and updated information, and who will be responsible for compliance with the site Safety Plan.

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For more information about this Legal Advisory or assistance with compliance, please contact Paul Pincus at (212) 588-0022 or*


1 New York’s staged reopening plans for various industries and locales can be found at its dedicated website

* This Legal Advisory is provided for informational purposes only. It does not constitute legal or tax advice. Recipients should consult with their own legal and tax counsel before taking any actions based on the information contained in this Advisory.