Late Thursday (March 19, 2020), California Governor Gavin Newsom issued an official, statewide Executive Order directing all non-essential businesses to send their workers home, effectively shutting down many California businesses. The “stay at home” order became effective at 11:59 p.m. on March 19 and continues indefinitely. The purpose behind these restrictions and closures is to limit the spread of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic.
As part of the Governor’s Executive Order, which can be found here, all businesses who fall outside the very limited definitions of “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers” were ordered to close shop, send employees home, and discontinue any on-site work during the restricted period. It is important to note that the State’s definitions of “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers” is much more limited than the “Essential Businesses” who were specifically exempted under the County of Los Angeles’ “Safer At Home” order, which was previously reported here.
Early Saturday morning, the Governor published a revised memorandum EXPANDING the definitions of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers. If your business was not originally covered under the original Executive Order definitions, we strongly encourage you to review the latest exemptions with your legal counsel. A list of the latest workers to be exempted from the statewide Executive Order can be found here.
If your business is NOT listed in the Governor’s exempted enterprises, you are still permitted to allow employees to work from home or telework, wherever possible. However, those employees cannot report to the physical business location.
Pursuant to the Governor’s authority under California Health and Safety Code 120125, 120140, 131080, 120130(c), 120135, 120145, 120175 and 120150, the Executive Order became effective immediately and is scheduled to stay in effect until further notice. We are awaiting guidance whether the extent of this Order will coincide with the County of Los Angeles Order, which is scheduled to continue through April 19, 2020.
According to the Governor’s original Executive Order is enforceable pursuant to California Government Code section 8665, which provides that any person who violates the provisions of the Executive Order “shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punishable by a fine of not to exceed one thousand dollars ($1,000) or by imprisonment for not to exceed six months or by both such fine and imprisonment.” Consequently, the penalties associated with a business being incorrect in the application of the exemptions, are quite substantial, and should not be taken lightly! Please reach out to competent legal counsel to confirm that your business fits into one of these extremely limited categories.
As part of the mandated business closures, many businesses are discussing various options including: work-from-home (telework) arrangements; reduction in employees’ work hours; work furloughs and, in some cases, layoffs, associated with the latest directives. Each of these options requires careful deliberation and consideration of legal ramifications. In many cases, they require specific written notices to the affected employees. The attorneys at Poole Shaffery are standing by to assist your business!