In their reporting about states ordering the closure of non-essential businesses, in addition to mandating that non-essential workers stay home in an effort to mitigate COVID-19 effects, USA Today spoke with Labor & Employment partner Jerry Hathaway about what constitutes “essential.”
According to Hathaway, "the broad view is health care, obviously that is essential, sanitation (and) food is essential, and military is essential."
Hathaway recommended that employers carefully follow state-specific regulations where they conduct business, since each state can have varying definitions in terms of what is classified as essential. Civil penalties could result from not following such executive orders.
"I don't think a typical employer had in the playbook, a pandemic on the scale of this," Hathaway said. "Everybody is in a state of shock, flux, and they are dealing with it as best they can. And they are looking for guidance because we have a lot of laws about notices before you close and all of that. People are trying to do the right thing, while being compliant with all our labor laws. It's a challenge for all employers."