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The Illinois Executive “Stay at Home” Order and Its Impact on Employers

03/24/2020

On March 20, Governor Pritzker issued a statewide executive order, 2020-10, known as the “stay at home” or “shelter-in-place” order in an effort to preserve the public health and safety amidst the coronavirus pandemic. The order went into effect beginning at 5 p.m. this past Saturday, March 21, and is scheduled to continue through April 7.

The order requires all individuals to stay at home with limited exceptions. Any gathering of more than 10 people is prohibited. The public may only leave their home for essential reasons, such as to obtain groceries, medicine, medical care, exercise, care of others, and for certain types of work.

The order further requires all non-essential business and operations to cease activity, but notes that they may continue operating so long as employees work from home. Employers who conduct “Essential Businesses and Operations” are permitted to remain open.

The order provides numerous examples of Essential Businesses, including the following: (a) stores that sell groceries and medicine, (b) food, beverage, and cannabis production and agriculture, (c) organizations that provide charitable and social services, (d) media, (e) gas stations and businesses needed for transportation, (f) financial institutions, (g) hardware and supply stores, (h) critical trades, (i) mail, post, shipping, logistics, delivery, and pick-up services, (j) educational institutions, (k) laundry services, (l) restaurants for consumption off-premises, (m) supplies to work from home, (n) supplies for Essential Businesses and Operations, (o) transportation, (p) home-based care and services, (q) residential facilities and shelters, (r) professional services, (s) day care centers for employees exempted by the Order, (t) manufacture, distribution, and supply chain for critical products and industries, (u) critical labor union functions, (v) hotels and motels, and (w) funeral services.

Employers should be aware of the impact that the 2020-10 order will have on their respective businesses. Recent reports show that requests for unemployment benefits to the Illinois Department of Employment Security have drastically increased compared to years past. Thus, employers should be prepared to contribute to the unemployment of employees who have been laid off.

Employers should be prepared to reimburse employees for all reasonable and necessary expenses as a result of those working remotely in compliance with the Expense Reimbursement law enacted in 2019. Employers who wish to implement changes to employees’ compensation, such as reducing pay rates, should be aware of requirements imposed by the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act, which requires proper notice.

To the extent a business is considered “essential” and requires its employees to physically come in to work, employers should take all reasonable steps to prevent the further spread of illness. According to the Governor’s order, Essential Businesses are instructed to comply with social distancing requirements by maintaining a six-foot distance for employees and members of the public at all times. If employers require employees to come in to work, they may subject themselves to a duty created by the Governor’s order. Furthermore, the general duty clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act principally requires employers to provide employees with a safe and healthy workplace. Accordingly, employers should remind employees to take basic preventive measures and safety precautions that may help to reduce the risk of contracting the coronavirus or spreading it in the workplace.

For questions regarding the applicability of the 2020-10 executive order, FMLA implications, or guidance regarding the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, please contact any of the following Heyl Royster employment attorneys: