Employment Law Bulletin | April 1, 2020 (Extended Orders)

County Health Officers Extend and Tighten Shelter in Place Orders

Yesterday, several Bay Area County Health Officers extended their Shelter in Place (SIP) orders to May 3, 2020 (beyond the original April 7, 2020 expiration date).  The Orders further clarify, strengthen, and extend certain terms of the prior SIP orders to increase social distancing and further reduce person-to-person contact in order to further slow transmission of the Novel Coronavirus Disease 2019.

Of vital importance to businesses, the orders tighten the definition of “Essential Business” and make it clear that even an “Essential Business” can only operate under limited circumstances during the SIP orders.  Below are some of the key points of the Sonoma County Order as it relates to Essential Businesses.  Similar wording can be found in other Bay Area county orders.

  • Essential Businesses must “maximize the number of employees who work from home.”
  • Essential Businesses may only assign those employees who cannot perform their job duties from home to work outside the home.
  • Businesses that include an Essential Business component at their facilities alongside non-essential components must, to the extent feasible, scale down their operations to the Essential Business component only.  There is an exception for mixed retail businesses that are otherwise allowed to operate under the Order; they may continue to stock and sell non-essential products.

The Orders make clear that “Essential Businesses” cannot conduct all activities, but must limit their work scope to “Essential Activities” and “Minimum Basic Operations.”  See the Order that applies to your business for definitions of these terms.  Links are provided below.

The revised Sonoma County Order also requires employers to prepare, post and implement a Social Distancing Protocol at each of their facilities where they are maintaining operations.  A sample protocol can be found at https://socoemergency.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Appendix-A-Social-Distancing-Protocol.docx.  The posting must be completed by 11:59 p.m. on April 2, 2020.  Other counties have similar protocol and posting requirements.

In addition, the updated Sonoma County order includes Frequently Asked Questions which provide guidance about interpretation of the Order.  The FAQs are located at the very end of the Order.

Sonoma County: https://socoemergency.org/order-of-the-health-officer-of-the-county-of-sonoma/ (through May 3, 2020)

Marin County: https://coronavirus.marinhhs.org/sites/default/files/2020-03/marin_final-superseding-shelter-in-place-order.pdf (through May 3, 2020)

City and County of San Francisco: https://www.sfdph.org/dph/alerts/files/HealthOfficerOrder-C19-07b-ShelterInPlace-03312020.pdf (through May 3, 2020)

Alameda County: http://www.acphd.org/2019-ncov/shelter-in-place.aspx (through May 3, 2020)

Mendocino County: https://www.mendocinocounty.org/home/showdocument?id=33279 (until rescinded)

Napa County:  https://www.countyofnapa.org/DocumentCenter/View/16687/3-18-2020-Shelter-at-Home-Order (currently only through April 7, 2020)

Contra Costa County:  https://www.contracosta.ca.gov/DocumentCenter/View/64727/2020-0331-Health-Officer-Order-COVID19 (through May 3, 2020)

The County Orders are complex, but contain a clear and simple message – we are in a serious health crisis.  Employees need to work remotely, and if that is not possible, there are only limited situations in which businesses can allow their employees to continue working outside the home.  While these Orders are necessary for the public good, we understand they are extremely disruptive to businesses.

SMT employment attorneys are all working remotely to help you navigate this crisis and to advise you about the emergency aid programs available to your business and your employees.  In addition, all SMT attorneys are available to assist you with your legal needs, whether or not they relate to COVID-19.  You may email any attorney through our website at www.www.smlaw.com or contact us at 707-524-1900. We are here to help.

Lisa Ann Hilario

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Spaulding McCullough & Tansil LLP
Employment Law Group

Jan Gabrielson Tansil  | Lisa Ann Hilario | Kari Brown