City of Birmingham “Shelter in Place Order” – What Does it Mean for Employers?

NOTE: Because the COVID-19 situation is dynamic, with new governmental measures each day, employers should consult with counsel for the latest developments and updated guidance on this topic.

On March 24, 2020, City of Birmingham Mayor Randall L. Woodfin proposed an ordinance to establish a “Shelter in Place Order” for the Alabama city in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency.  The City Council authorized the Order that same day. 

The Order establishes a public safety curfew for the City of Birmingham, effective from 12:00 p.m. (noon) on March 24, 2020 until 12:00 a.m. (midnight) on April 3, 2020.  Currently, the Order only applies within the city limits of Birmingham.  There is a 24-hour window after the passage of the order to allow workers and business owners to go to their workplaces to gather belongings or address other administrative needs, so long as social distancing requirements are followed. 

Contrary to what seem to be new restrictions on Birmingham City businesses and employees, however, Mayor Woodfin and city councilors have verbally clarified that employees working at businesses not previously ordered closed by the Jefferson County Department of Health can continue working.  Mayor Woodfin further clarified that any business not on the JCDH’s non-essential list can continue operating as normal and employees can continue coming to work as directed by their employers.

Under the prior March 22, 2020 Order of the Jefferson County Chief Health Officer the following businesses are closed and their employees are subject to the curfew:

  • Non-essential retail stores (furniture and home furnishing stores; clothing, shoe and clothing accessory stores; jewelry, luggage and leather goods stores; department stores; sporting goods; hobby, book and music stores; florists);
  • Barber shops, hair salons, waxing salons and threading salons;
  • Nail salons and spas;
  • Recreational facilities (gyms and fitness centers; swimming pools and spas excluding licensed physical therapy services, yoga, barre and spin facilities, spectator sports, playground equipment);
  • Concert venues and auditoriums;
  • Theaters;
  • Entertainment venues (night clubs, bowling alleys, arcades, racetracks, indoor children’s play places, pool halls, adult gaming and entertainment venues, casinos, bingo halls);
  • Body art facilities and tattoo services;
  • Performing arts centers, events, rehearsals;
  • Massage therapy establishments and services;
  • Proms, formals and other similar events;
  • Museums, historical sites and galleries;
  • Social clubs;
  • All senior citizen center gatherings;
  • Tanning salons; and
  • Tourist attractions.

Workers providing essential goods and services deemed essential by the JCCHO are specifically exempt by the written order.  These essential goods and services include:

  • Restaurant take-out, curbside pickup, drive-thru and delivery only;
  • Grocery stores;
  • Hospitals/Clinics;
  • Pharmacies;
  • Gas stations;
  • First Responders;
  • Utilities (water, gas, electricity);
  • Financial Institutions;
  • Funeral homes;
  • Hardware stores; and
  • Technology stores.

The written order also provides for exceptions to the curfew for employees working in specific areas such as public safety or emergency services; first responders, crisis intervention workers, public health workers; workers engaged in activities to maintain or restore utilities, cable and telecommunications services; sanitation; security; food deliver services and other deliveries of merchandise or mail; workers restocking business in order to provide essential services or products; and persons employed by the federal, state, county or city government or their agencies working within the course and scope of their public service employment.

In addition, workers providing essential products or services are specifically exempt from the curfew including health care professionals; veterinary care professionals; workers providing products or services in support of individuals obtaining medical supplies or medication; workers providing products or services in support of individuals obtaining grocery items for their household or to deliver to others; workers providing products or services in support of legally mandated government purposes.

Finally, businesses and workers providing any services, goods, or work necessary to build, operate, maintain or manufacture essential infrastructure are exempt from the curfew, including: 

  • Construction of commercial, office and institutional buildings, residential buildings and housing;
  • Airport operations, food supply, concessions, and construction;
  • Port operations and construction;
  • Water, sewer, gas, electrical, oil extraction and refining;
  • Roads and highways, public transportation and rail;
  • Solid waste collection and removal;
  • Flood control and watershed protection;
  • Internet and telecommunications systems (including the provision of essential global, national, and local infrastructure for computing services, business infrastructure, communications, and web-based serviced); and
  • Manufacturing and distribution companies deemed essential to the supply chains of the above-listed industries, provided they carry out those services and work in compliance with social distancing practices, to the extent possible.

Failure to comply with the Order is punishable by the general penalty provided in Sec. 1-1-6 of the General Code of the City of Birmingham, which could include, upon conviction, a fine not exceeding $500, imprisonment in the city jail, and/or hard labor not exceeding six months. 

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.