Legal Update

Mar 23, 2020

Connecticut Governor Orders In-Person Workforces Of Non-Essential Businesses Reduced At Or Near 100%

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By: Kaveh Dabashi and Loren Gesinsky

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Seyfarth Synopsis:  Governor Lamont has issued multiple Executive Orders designed to ensure social distancing and slow the spread of COVID-19 in Connecticut. The most recent measures include Executive Orders of March 20 and 23, 2020 imposing restrictions on workplaces for non-essential businesses.

100% Reduction to In-Person Workforce of Non-Essential Businesses Initially Ordered

On March 20, 2020, Governor Lamont issued Executive Order No. 7H, mandating that “[n]on-essential businesses or not-for-profit entities shall reduce their in-person workforces at any workplace locations by 100%[.]”  EO-7H, available here, is effective March 23, 2020 at 8:00 PM.

Essential businesses or entities providing essential goods are exempt from these restrictions.  EO-7H provides an extensive list of “essential businesses,” which have been elaborated on in subsequent guidance issued by the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development (“DECD”).  Under that guidance, the following are listed as “essential” and thus not subject to EO-7H’s restrictions (the complete list is available here):

  • Health care and related operations, including hospitals, pharmacies and elder care facilities
  • Infrastructure, including airports, transportation, and telecommunications centers
  • All manufacturing and corresponding supply chains, including aerospace, agriculture and related support businesses
  • Retail, including grocery stores, food and beverage retailers, and gas stations
  • Food and agriculture, including farms and farmer’s markets, food manufacturing, processing, and storage, and restaurants (delivery and take-out only)
  • General services, including accounting and payroll, news and media, building cleaning and maintenance, child care, financial advisors, financial institutions such as banks, and critical operations support for financial institutions
  • Providers of basic necessities to economically disadvantaged populations, including food banks and homeless shelters
  • Construction, including electricians, plumbers, and commercial and residential general construction
  • Services necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation and essential operations of all residences and other buildings (including services necessary to secure and maintain non-essential workplaces), such as building cleaners or janitors, doormen, pest control, and fire prevention and response
  • Vendors providing essential services or products needed to ensure the continuing operation of government agencies and that provide for the health, safety and welfare of the public, including child care services, IT and information security, and billboard leasing and maintenance
  • Defense and national security-related business and operations
  • Essential workers as defined by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in 16 Critical Infrastructure Sectors, available here

Non-essential businesses can request that the DECD conduct an assessment and designate them as “essential.”

March 23rd Order Clarified that In-Person Workforce Near Zero Could be Permissible

On March 23, 2020, Governor Lamont issued Executive Order No. 7J as a clarification of EO-7H.  Specifically, EO-7J (available here) amends EO-7H “to permit (1) non-essential retailers to be staffed on site, provided that they may only offer remote ordering (e.g., phone, internet, mail, dropbox) and delivery or curb-side pick-up, and (2) non-essential businesses and nonprofits to allow staff or third parties on site to the minimum extent necessary to provide security, maintenance, and receipt of mail and packages, or other services deemed essential in implementing” the DECD guidance.

Employer Takeaways:

Employers should immediately assess whether they are an essential business, and if not, undertake efforts to reduce in-person workforces to 100% by 8:00 PM on March 23rd.

With the COVID-19 landscape continuing to evolve rapidly, employers are encouraged to reach out to their Seyfarth contacts regarding how they may adapt. To stay up-to-date on COVID-19 developments, click here to sign up for our daily digest.