A new virus, Coronavirus 2019/COVID-19 first identified in Wuhan, China in late 2019 has been spreading across the globe and is now in the United States. In the midst of a global disease outbreak, on March 19, 2020, California Governor Newsom issued a shelter-in-place order that will impact businesses throughout the state. But what does this mean for the California workforce?
We’ve answered some frequently asked questions from California employers related to Coronavirus/COVID-19 below:
What does the Executive Order say?
Executive Order N-33-20 orders all residents to stay home, except as needed to maintain continuity of operations of essential critical infrastructure sectors and additional sectors as the State Public Health Officer may designate as critical to protect health and well-being of all Californians. On March 22, 2020, the State Public Health Officer issued a list of “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers,” which includes but is not limited to businesses such as: gas stations, pharmacies, grocery stores (food delivery), banks, laundromats/laundry services, essential state and local government functions, and cannabis retailers and workers supporting cannabis retail. You can download the Order here. Click here to see if your business is listed on the State Essential Critical Infrastructure list.
Do county and/or city orders also apply to my business?
The California Constitution allows a county or city to make and enforce within its limits all local ordinances, order, and regulations that do not conflict with the state’s laws and orders. For example, Los Angeles County Dept. of Health has issued an order which can be viewed here and the City of Los Angeles has also issued its own order entitled “Safer at Home” which is available here.
What happens if we violate the Executive Order?
Violations of the Executive Order are subject to criminal penalties, and various theories of civil liability might also apply if a company remains open for business, especially if an employee or customer contracts COVID-19 as a result. To the extent employees are able to work remotely they should do so.
How long will the Executive Order remain in effect?
There is no stated expiration date. It may remain in effect until the spread of the COVID-19 begins to diminish and/or until government leaders believe that the benefit conferred to the state by the Order is outweighed by the country’s and/or state’s severe economic damage.
What should we do if an employee appears sick?
If any employee comes to work with a fever or difficulty in breathing, he/she should seek medical evaluation. You are permitted to ask the employee to seek medical attention and get tested for COVID-19. The CDC advises that employees who exhibit flu-like symptoms at work during a pandemic should leave the workplace. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) confirmed that advising workers to go home is permissible and not considered disability-related if the employee’s symptoms are similar to those of coronavirus or the flu.
We are hard at work addressing client needs throughout the pandemic. Do not hesitate to contact us.
By Michael Karikomi, April 2, 2020.