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Closed for Business? Los Angeles and California Issue Sweeping Orders to Combat COVID-19 Spread

March 20, 2020

On March 20, 2020, both the State of California and County of Los Angeles announced sweeping restrictions to combat the spread of COVID-19. Both orders took effect at 11:59 p.m. local time on March 19, 2020, and provided fewer than six hours’ notice. The new orders collectively restrict most businesses from remaining open and prevent individuals from engaging in non-essential activities. There are differences between the two orders and individuals residing and working in the Los Angeles County should comply with both orders.

Los Angeles County’s “Safer at Home” Order

The Los Angeles County Health Officer ordered that all “Non-Essential” commercial properties and businesses must close. Under Los Angeles County’s “Safer at Home” Order (the “Los Angeles Order”), businesses subject to closure include all retail establishments which provide goods and services to the public and which do not meet the Los Angeles Order’s definition of exempt, “essential businesses.” “Essential Businesses” which are exempt from the Los Angeles Order include, but are not limited to, grocery stores, media services, financial institutions, healthcare operations (hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, veterinary care, etc.), building supply stores, plumbers, electricians, maintenance workers, mailing and shipping services, restaurants with takeout and delivery services, grocery delivery services, and childcare facilities providing services to employees working for exempt “Essential Businesses.” The Los Angeles Order, with a complete list of exemptions, is available here

The Los Angeles Order further restricts all public and private gatherings of 10 or more people anywhere within the Los Angeles County, unless those gatherings are associated with governmental or other essential services, such as work at an Essential Business, transportation, housing, or governmental services. The Los Angeles Order allows for a 24-hour grace period to permit employees and businesses to access their workplaces to gather belongings, so long as social distancing rules are followed. The Los Angeles Order remains in effect through April 19, 2020.

Unlike the “Shelter in Place” order in San Francisco which specifically orders all individuals to remain at home except for essential activities and essential work, the Los Angeles Order does not require individuals to “stay at home.” However, because residents of the Los Angeles County must also comply with the California Order, restrictions on individuals’ ability to leave home apply and are set forth below.

The State of California Executive Order N-33-20

Immediately after Los Angeles County announced its Safer at Home Order, the State of California issued Executive Order N-33-20 (the “California Order”). The California Order is more restrictive on an individual’s movement and less restrictive on businesses than the Los Angeles Order. The California Order mandates all individuals living in the State of California to “stay home or at their place of residence except as needed to maintain continuity of operations of the federal critical infrastructure sectors.” The Order recognizes 16 critical infrastructure sectors, which generally define industries, including chemical, critical manufacturing, emergency services, financial services, food and agriculture, government facilities, healthcare facilities and commercial facilities, which broadly includes retail, entertainment, gambling, housing, public assemblies, and real estate. The California Order “shall stay in effect until further notice.” A complete list of critical infrastructure sectors can be found here.

The key element to the California Order is that those businesses can continue to operate “as needed to maintain continuity of operations.” As such, businesses that only fall under the California Order should only continue to send workers as needed to maintain operations and should still consider scaling back staff and offering telework options when available. 

If your California business is not within Los Angeles County, you should check your local county website to determine if your county has specific restrictions in place.

Resources for Employers Forced to Close

If your business is mandated to cease operations pursuant to any state or local orders and your employees will be experiencing a loss of pay due to the closure, you can refer your employees to the California EDD website which provides information regarding unemployment insurance benefits for impacted employees. That information is available here.

The attorneys in Clark Hill’s Labor & Employment Practice Group understand that this is a trying time for businesses around the country and are available to assist in navigating these uncharted waters. For more information, please visit Clark Hill’s COVID-19 Resources webpage.

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