New Jersey COVID-19 Business Information

Up-to-date information for businesses on reopening from COVID, including rules and guidance that must be followed, economic assistance programs, and other resources.

What workplace health and safety standards must my business follow to be open?

Updated:
March 29, 2021

Every business, non-profit, governmental, and educational entity that requires or permits its workforce to be physically present at a worksite must abide by the standardized operational requirements outlined in Executive Order 192 and listed below in Health & Safety Standards for All Employers.

Businesses must also abide by all additional requirements outlined for their industry listed under Industry-Specific Guidelines.

This article also identifies Businesses that Must Be Closed as well as Gathering Limits in the state of New Jersey.

Health & Safety Standards for All Employers

Every business, non-profit, governmental, and educational entity that requires or permits its workforce to be physically present at a worksite must abide by the following requirements, at minimum, to protect employees, customers, and others who come into contact with its operations:

  • Require workers and customers to maintain at least six feet of distance from one another, to the maximum extent possible;
  • Require everyone to wear face masks, except when an employee is at their workstation at least six feet from others, or is alone in a walled space such as an office—Note that employers may be authorized to prevent individuals who refuse to wear a mask from entering the worksite, where such actions are consistent with state and federal law;
  • Provide face masks for their employees;
  • Provide approved sanitization materials for employees and visitors at no cost to those individuals;
  • Ensure that employees practice hand hygiene and provide ​employees with sufficient break time for that purpose;
  • Routinely clean and disinfect all high-touch areas in accordance with DOH and CDC guidelines;
  • Prior to each shift, conduct daily health checks, such as temperature screenings, visual symptom checking, self-assessment checklists, and/or health questionnaires, consistent with CDC guidance;
  • Do not allow sick employees to enter workplace and follow requirements of applicable leave laws; and
  • Promptly notify employees of any known exposure to COVID-19 at the worksite.

Under federal OSHA law, employers must protect workers from workplace hazards that can cause illness or injury, provide required personal protective equipment (PPE), and ensure its use. It's also against New Jersey Wage and Hour law for an employer to deduct the cost of protective equipment from an employee’s pay. Employees who believe that their employer is not following the protocols articulated in EO 192 can file workplace safety complaints here.

Employers can check with the NJDOL about their health and safety questions. The department can be reached by email at SafetyTraining@dol.nj.gov or at 609-633-2587. NJDOL also offers free health and safety trainings and consultations. For more information on consultations visit www.nj.gov/labor/consultation and for trainings visit www.nj.gov/labor/training.

Detailed requirements and exemptions can be found in Executive Order 192. Many sectors face additional requirements summarized in the articles below.

Industry-Specific Guidelines

Under Executive Order 195, municipalities and counties have the option to regulate the operating hours of non-essential businesses after 8 p.m. Municipalities and counties cannot impose other actions that differ from statewide rules, such as restrictions on essential businesses, full business closures, or restrictions on gatherings or capacity.

Retail businesses must follow Department of Health Guidance for Retail Businesses, and Administrative Order 2020-22, including limiting occupancy to 50% of store capacity, and installing a physical barrier where possible. Self-service food, is not permitted at retail businesses, including grocery stores. While indoor portions of malls may be open, valet parking, communal play areas, and communal seating remain closed. Food courts and in-mall entertainment businesses, must follow guidelines for indoor dining and entertainment businesses respectively. Vending machines and stroller rentals may be open. Department of Health Guidance for Winter Holiday and Celebrations discourages indoor Santa visits and recommends that if they do take place they should be touchless experiences.

Food or beverage establishments must follow DOH Protocols for Outdoor Dining, Safety Standards for Indoor Dining, Executive Order 194, 230, and DCA's guidance for the use of outdoor space. Indoor capacity limit is planned to increase to 50%, not including employees. Municipalities or counties may regulate the hours of in-person restaurant service after 8 p.m. Seating at the bar in indoor areas is prohibited at all times. Restaurants are allowed to have groups at indoor tables closer than six feet if they are separated by barriers that comply with DOH guidance. Areas with a fixed roof and two sides open (comprising over 50% of total wall space) may operate under outdoor dining rules in EO 163. Under Senate Bill 3340, restaurants may expand outdoor dining premises through November 30, 2022, or whenever indoor dining returns to full capacity—whichever is later—according to the permit process outlined by the ABC. Effective 6 a.m. on Friday, April 2nd, indoor catered events with professional caterers or at dining establishments are limited to 35 percent of a room's capacity, but no more than 150 people.

Restaurants are allowed to set up heated, plastic domes outdoors limited to one group each and subject to rules in EO 194 and 163. Establishments maintaining tents must apply for a Uniform Construction Code (UCC) permit from their local construction office; a required permit for any electrical equipment, wiring, or mechanical equipment must also be filed; operational items such as portable cooking equipment and propane heaters should comply with the Uniform Fire Code and be addressed by the local fire official. Holders of summer seasonal retail consumption licenses may continue to sell alcoholic beverages until January 14, 2022, under Assembly Bill 4589.

Microbreweries and brewpubs may be open for home delivery. Depending on the type of license they hold, food service may be allowed; business owners should consult Executive Orders 150 and 157 and the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control's ruling to determine if they qualify.

Licensed personal care businesses may be open. Saunas, steam rooms, and shared bathing facilities must remain closed. Licensed businesses must abide by the Division of Consumer Affairs' comprehensive safety standards for Cosmetology, Massage, and Bodywork licensees, and regulations in Executive Orders 194, 219, and 230 including but not limited to 50% capacity (not including employees), providing services by appointment only, and staff-client pairs remaining at least 6 feet apart unless separated by physical barriers. Tattoo and tanning facilities must follow Department of Health standards for tanning and body art establishments. Under Executive Order 157, clients may receive services that require the removal of a face covering, provided that clients wear a face covering at all times before and after the service.

Child care centers must follow Department of Children and Families' Child Care Safety Requirements.

All recreational and entertainment businesses must follow requirements detailed in Executive Orders 157,  181, 183,  219, and 230, including but not limited to 50% capacity for indoor areas, not including employees. Note that any recreational facility providing child care support must comply with all requirements of child care centers, including being licensed by the Department of Children and Families. In addition, amusement parks, theme parks and water parks must follow requirements detailed in the Department of Health’s Standards for Outdoor and Indoor High-Touch Amusement and Recreation Activities. Water parks and pools must also adhere to the requirements of Executive Order 153 and the Department of Health’s Standards for Pools and Aquatic Recreation Facilities. Recreational businesses that offer indoor fitness classes and activities must also follow the Department of Health's Guidance for Health Clubs/Gyms/Fitness Centers and abide by the limit on indoor gatherings, currently limited to 25 people.

Entertainment centers where performances are viewed or given must follow requirements in Executive Orders 183, 219, 230 and including but not limited to 35% capacity or 150 people, whichever is less (not including staff). Outdoor performances at outdoor entertainment centers, including movie theaters, performing arts centers, and other concert venues, are limited to a number that ensures that all people can remain six feet apart, but no more than 150 people. At 6 a.m. on Friday, April 2, the general outdoor gathering limit will increase to 200 people. Outdoor performances in an outside area adjacent to an indoor entertainment centers must be limited to 35 percent of the facility’s indoor capacity, but no more than 150 people, not including staff.  Large venues, including sports and entertainment venues, with a fixed seating capacity of 5,000 or more are permitted to host events at 10% capacity indoors and 15% capacity outdoors. Both capacity limits exclude participants, such as athletes and performers, and staff, such as coaches and ushers. At 6 a.m. on Friday, April 2, venues with fixed seating capacity of 2,500 or more may host indoor events at 20 percent capacity and outdoor events at 30 percent capacity.  

Gyms and fitness centers must follow the required safety policies detailed in Executive Orders 157, 181, 219, and 230 and the Department of Health's Guidance for Health Clubs/Gyms/Fitness centers, including, but not limited to: 50% capacity indoors, not including employees; fitness classes with capacity limited to one customer per every 200 square feet of classroom space, and no more than 25 individuals (per indoor gathering limits); logs maintained of when all gym members and staff are in the facility; equipment spaced to allow a minimum of 6-feet of distance between all gym-goers; and equipment only made available that can be properly sanitized in-between uses.

Casinos must follow all requirements from Executive Orders 157, 158, 194, 219, and 230, the Division of Gaming Enforcement, and reopening protocols from the Casino Association of New Jersey, including but not limited to: 50% capacity, not including employees; smoking prohibited indoors; reopening plans submitted to the Division of Gaming Enforcement. Note that municipalities or counties may to regulate the hours of operation of in-person food service after 8 p.m.

Hotels, motor hotels, motels, and other established guesthouses must follow written policies as defined in Department of Health Protocols for Hotel Sanitization.

Organized sports activities must follow Department of Health Guidance for Sports Activities, and Executive Order 204 and 230. Private fitness classes, lessons, and trainings at gyms, studios and similar locations are permitted to continue but must abide by the indoor gathering limit of 25 people. Private fitness classes, lessons, trainings at gym studios, organized sports practices and competitions are limited by the general indoor gatherings limit of 25 people and the general outdoor gatherings limit of 50 people. At 6 a.m. on Friday, April 2, the general outdoor gathering limit will increase to 200 people. There are exceptions, described below:

Athletes, coaches, referees and other individuals necessary for professional, collegiate or youth sports competition are not counted towards the 50-person limit. Outdoor and indoor youth and collegiate sports can further exceed the 50-person limit by up to two parents or guardians per athlete. All indoor interstate games and tournaments up to and including the high school level are prohibited. All outdoor interstate youth sports competitions will be permitted. Indoor youth sports cannot exceed 35% of the room's capacity or 150 people total. Indoor collegiate sports are able to exceed 150 people, but are still limited by 35% of room's capacity. Small or medium venues hosting college events, the parent/guardian spectators can exceed the 150 person limit, but not the 35% room capacity. Professional sports are capped at 35% of the room’s capacity, but no more than 150 people. Large venues with a seating capacity of over 5,000 people may host indoor events at 10 percent capacity and outdoor events at 15 percent capacity. At 6 a.m. on Friday, April 2, venues with fixed seating capacity of 2,500 or more may host indoor events at 20 percent capacity and outdoor events at 30 percent capacity.  Participants, such as athletes and performers, and staff, such as coaches and ushers, are not counted towards these capacity limits.

Career and training schools must follow protocols in Paragraph 10 of Executive Order 155.

Horse-racing can take place. Fans will not be allowed into racetrack grandstands. Gathering limits apply.

Transportation Carriers must comply with restrictions in Paragraph 1 of Executive Order 125.

Construction projects, including nonessential construction, must follow all protocols in Paragraph 2 of Executive Order 142.

Medical facilities may continue to operate. Facilities conducting elective services are required to comply with Guidance for Hospitals to Resume Elective Services [PDF] and Guidance for Ambulatory Surgery Centers to Resume Elective Services. Further NJDOH Legal and Regulatory Compliance documentation is available from the department as well.

Businesses That Must Be Closed

Adult Day Care Centers remain closed.

Gathering Limits

Gatherings of individuals are allowed at limited capacities and also subject to all other current business closures and restrictions. The CDC defines gatherings to include conferences, large meetings, parties, festivals, events, and other types of assemblies.

Indoor gatherings are limited to 25 persons. Religious events, including wedding ceremonies, funerals, and memorial services are an exception, and are limited to 50% of a room's capacity. There is also an exception for political activities, performances, wedding ceremonies, funerals and memorial services that don't involve a religious service, these activities are limited to 35% of a room's capacity or 150 persons, whichever is lower. Wedding receptions will follow the same rules as listed above, this number may exclude venue staff for both receptions and ceremonies. Wedding receptions and ceremonies must follow NJ's indoor dining guidelines. Effective 6 a.m. on Friday, April 2nd, indoor catered events with professional caterers or at dining establishments are limited to 35 percent of a room's capacity, but no more than 150 people. These events will need to follow all relevant protocols for indoor dining, which include requirements that attendees wear masks and which prohibit venues from opening dance floors. Large venues, including sports and entertainment venues, with a fixed seating capacity of 5,000 or more are permitted to host events at 10% capacity indoors. Attendees at all indoor gatherings must wear face coverings and stay 6 feet apart. At 6 a.m. on Friday, April 2, venues with fixed seating capacity of 2,500 or more may host indoor events at 20 percent capacity and outdoor events at 30 percent capacity.  

Outdoor gatherings are limited to 50 persons, with an exception allowing no limits for outdoor wedding ceremonies, funerals, memorial services, religious activities, or political activities. Outdoor wedding receptions can have up to 150 people outdoors, excluding venue staff. For more information on the distinction between wedding ceremonies and receptions visit the COVID Hub. At 6 a.m. on Friday, April 2, the general outdoor gathering limit will increase to 200 people. Large venues, including sports and entertainment venues, with a fixed seating capacity of 5,000 or more are permitted to host events at 15%  capacity outdoors. At 6 a.m. on Friday, April 2, venues with fixed seating capacity of 2,500 or more may host indoor events at 20 percent capacity and outdoor events at 30 percent capacity.

If any business is violating the required guidelines, you can report it to the State at covid19.nj.gov/violation, or to your Local Health Department, which you can identify with the Find Your Local Health Department tool.