In Connecticut’s continued battle against the spread of COVID-19, on March 20, 2020, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont issued Executive Order 7H, which directs, in relevant part that:
- All businesses and nonprofits operating in Connecticut, whether essential or not, to the maximum extent possible, have employees telecommute and work from home; and
- All non-essential businesses and nonprofits reduce their in-person workforce by 100% by 8:00 pm on Monday, March 23, 2020.
The closures are effective through April 22, 2020 unless modified by Governor Lamont.
On Sunday evening, March 22, 2020, the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development (“DECD”), in accordance with Executive Order 7H, issued binding guidance (“the Guidance”) to businesses. Of particular note, the Guidance clarifies that the mandatory closure does not apply to any state or municipal government, their agencies, quasi-public agencies, political subdivisions or any other entity that is not a “business” or “nonprofit.” It also does not apply to those businesses with only one employee. Furthermore, all non-essential business are permitted to continue operations off-site by telecommuting and working from home. Also, non-essential businesses may work off-site, such as in a customer’s home.
Executive Order 7J, which was issued on Sunday, March 22, 2020, further clarifies that:
- Non-essential retailers may also continue to staff on-site, but may only offer remote ordering and curb-side pick up or delivery; and
- All non-essential businesses and nonprofits may also continue to allow minimum staffing to provide security, maintenance and receipt of mail and packages.
Essential Business as Defined by Guidance
The Guidance deems the following to be “Essential Business” and, therefore, exempt from the mandates of Executive Order 7H. However, the Guidance mandates that all employees of essential businesses whose job duties are not critical to an essential business function telecommute or work from home.
- The 16 critical infrastructure sectors, as defined by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security: (1) Chemical; (2) Commercial Facilities; (3) Communications; (4) Critical Manufacturing; (5) Dam; (6) Defense Industrial Base; (7) Emergency Services; (8) Energy, Financial Services; (9) Food and Agriculture; (10) Government Facilities; (11) Healthcare and Public Heath; (12) Information Technology; (14) Nuclear Reactors; (15) Materials and Waste, Transportation Systems; and (16) Water and Wastewater Systems. Each of these is operated by a specified sector of the U.S. Executive Branch.
- Healthcare and related operations:
- Biotechnology therapies
- Consumer health products and services
- Doctor and dentist offices
- Elder care, including adult day care
- Health care plans and health care data
- Home health care workers or aides
- Manufacturing, distributing, warehousing, and supplying of pharmaceuticals, including research and development
- Medical marijuana dispensaries and producers
- Medical supplies and equipment providers, including devices, diagnostics, services, and any other healthcare related supplies or services
- Medical wholesale and distribution
- Nursing homes, or residential health care facilities or congregate care facilities
- Physical therapy and chiropractic offices
- Research and laboratory services, including testing and treatment of COVID-19
- Veterinary and animal health services
- Walk-in-care health facilities
- Commercial trucking
- Dam maintenance and support
- Education-related functions at the primary, secondary, or higher education level to provide support for students, including distribution of meals or faculty conducting e-learning
- Hotels and other places of accommodation
- Water and wastewater operations, systems, and businesses
- Telecommunications and data centers
- Transportation infrastructure including bus, rail, for-hire vehicles and vehicle rentals, and garages
- Utilities including power generation, fuel supply, and transmission.
- Manufacturing and corresponding supply chains.
- Retail stores, including: appliances, electronics, computers, and telecom equipment; big-box stores or wholesale clubs, provided they also sell groceries, consumer health products, or operate a pharmacy; convenience stores; gas station; grocery stores including all food and beverage retailers; guns and ammunition; hardware, paint, and building material stores, including home appliance sales/repair; liquor/package stores and manufacturer permittees; pharmacies; and pet and pet supply stores.
- Food and agriculture, including: farms and farmers’ markets; food manufacturing, processing, storage, and distribution facilities; nurseries, garden centers, and agriculture supply stores; and restaurants/bars (provided compliance with all applicable executive orders (limiting service to take out and delivery) is maintained).
- Accounting and payroll
- Animal shelters or animal care or management, including boarding, grooming, pet walking and pet sitting
- Auto supply, repair, towing, and service, including roadside assistance
- Bicycle repair and service
- Building cleaning and maintenance
- Child care services
- Critical operations support for financial institutions
- Financial advisors
- Financial institutions, including banks, credit unions, and check cashing services
- Funeral homes, crematoriums, and cemeteries
- Insurance companies
- Laundromats and dry cleaning
- Legal and accounting
- Mail and shipping
- Marinas and marine repair and service
- News and media
- Real estate transactions and related services, including residential leasing and renting
- Religious services, limited to gatherings of 50 people
- Storage for Essential Businesses
- Trash and recycling collection, hauling, and processing
- Warehouse, distribution, shipping, and fulfillment.
- Providers to economically disadvantaged populations including: food banks; homeless shelters; congregate care facilities; human services providers providing direct care of patients in state-licensed or funded programs, care, protection, custody and oversight of individuals in the community and in state-licensed residential facilities; and community shelters and other critical human services agencies providing direct care or support social service agencies.
- Construction, including: skilled trades (electricians, HVAC, and plumbers); general commercial and residential construction; essential infrastructure and emergency repair and safety; and planning, engineering, design, bridge inspection, and other construction support activities.
- Services required to maintain safety, sanitation and essential operations of residences and buildings (including those for non-essential workplaces), including: building maintenance and security; janitorial services; building code enforcement; disinfection; doormen; emergency services, including fire prevention and response; general maintenance; real estate transactions, closings, appraisals, and moving services; outdoor maintenances, including landscaping and pool services; law enforcement; pest control; and state marshals.
- Vendors providing essential services and products, including logistics and technical support, child care and other services required to ensure continued operation of government services and to provide for the health safety and welfare of the public, which includes:
- Billboard leasing and maintenance
- Child care services
- Essential government services
- Government owned or leased buildings
- Technology, information technology and information security
- Defense and national security-related businesses and operations that support the U.S. Government and/or is a U.S. Government contractor.
Businesses not otherwise listed above may request designation as an Essential Business by the DECD. The DECD advises that it will make decisions based on a balance of needs related to public health, safety and security of supply chains that are necessary for life sustaining businesses. Businesses may request status as an Essential Business on line, link provided here.
Employers’ Bottom Line: All employers operating in Connecticut should take time to read the various Executive Orders and DECD Guidance to ensure compliance. The Orders and Guidance are available here. Non-essential businesses must stop all business by 8:00 p.m. this evening, except for businesses that can be done by telecommuting or at a customer’s home. Even essential businesses are being asked to have nonessential staff and others work from home as much as possible to ensure minimum staffing at each business location. Small businesses may qualify for disaster relief loans issued on the federal and/or state level. More information can be found by clicking here.