The Law @ Work

Massachusetts and Connecticut Travel Orders: What Do They Mean for Workers who Cross State Lines?

By John S. Gannon, Esq.

Over the weekend, Massachusetts added Connecticut and New Jersey to the state’s high-risk Travel Order. This means residents of Massachusetts who travel to Connecticut, New Jersey or any state that is not designated as a lower-risk state, need to quarantine for 14 days or produce a negative COVID-19 test result that has been administered up to 72-hours prior to arriving in Massachusetts. Similarly, Connecticut added Massachusetts to its Travel Order last week. (Massachusetts and Connecticut also announced more COVID-related restrictions yesterday—we will cover those in a blog post later this week).

We previously covered the Massachusetts Travel Order here.  That post includes a general discussion about the Order itself, and (importantly) the intersection with FFCRA benefits. In this post, we are taking a closer look at how these state travel orders affect your employees who go back and forth between Massachusetts and Connecticut for work.

Let’s start with folks who live in Connecticut and travel to Massachusetts for work (because this includes me). Before getting there, I will take a moment to remind readers that both Connecticut and Massachusetts still advise employers to allow for teleworking/working remotely when it is possible. 

The Connecticut Travel Order does not address commuters. However, the Order specifically states that the restrictions do not apply if the traveler spends less than 24 hours in a high-risk state.  The state’s Travel Order FAQ section explains as follows:  “Any Connecticut resident who needs to travel to an adjacent Affected State for work is not subject to the self-quarantine requirement as long as his or her time in the adjacent Affected State is less than twenty-four (24) hours.” The FAQ goes on to state that “[e]mployers in adjacent Affected States can continue to expect employees who are Connecticut residents to come to work as needed, though telework options are preferable if possible.” It also strongly advises commuters to avoid non-work contact while in the high-risk state.

What does this mean for workers living in Connecticut? They can enter Massachusetts and return to Connecticut for their daily commute, but they should not do anything else in Massachusetts other than commuting. But what if a Connecticut resident is asked to spend the night in Massachusetts or another high-risk state?  If they are not back within the 24-hour mark, a 14-day quarantine or negative COVID test is a must. 

The Massachusetts Travel Order does not have the same exemption for trips under 24 hours. It does, however, address commuting. The Order exempts people “who regularly commute, at least weekly,” inside or outside Massachusetts for work. Similar to the Connecticut Order, the Massachusetts Order states that “this exception applies only to and from the person’s residence and place of work or school.” This means activities like running errands during a lunch break or picking up dinner after work should be avoided if you are still in a high-risk state. 

What does all of this mean for employers in Massachusetts and Connecticut? For starters, everyday commuting for work is permitted in both states.  Residents in Connecticut can even spend a little extra time in a high-risk state, perhaps even an overnight trip, as long as they are back in under 24 hours.  Massachusetts residents, on the other hand, can travel to a high-risk state for commuting purposes only (unless one of the other exemptions applies). As a result, Massachusetts employers should not be directing employees who live outside the Commonwealth to do any non-commuting travel. Remember, the Massachusetts Travel Order strongly discourages employers from requiring or allowing any business-related travel unless it is in a low-risk state. This means non-commuting employee travel to or from a high-risk state—which now includes Connecticut—should not be allowed while the Travel Order is in place. 

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