Illinois to “Stay at Home” – What Does This Mean for Employers?

Update: On March 23, 2020 the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity issued guidance addressing its interpretation of which businesses are essential and which businesses are non-essential. On March 31, 2020, Governor Pritzker extended the Stay-at-Home order through April 30, 2020.

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Following an afternoon press conference on March 20, 2020, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker issued an Executive Order requiring all individuals currently living within the State of Illinois to “stay at home or at their place of residence,” except as specifically allowed by the Order.

The Order was spurred by the rapid spread of COVID-19 throughout Illinois, and the resulting significant economic impact and threat to housing security and stability. In addition to a directive to residents to “stay at home,” the Order requires all businesses and operations to cease activity in the state, unless deemed to be “essential businesses and operations.” Overall, it appears the Order’s purpose is largely intended to target businesses which continued to remain open, even where serving an entirely entertainment or social purpose.

The following are critical takeaways for employers regarding the Order:

1.  The Order directs all non-essential businesses and operations in Illinois to cease all activities, except “Minimum Basic Operations.”

  • Covered businesses under this Order include any for-profit, non-profit, or educational entity, regardless of the nature of the service, the function it performs, or its corporate or entity structure.
  • This directive does not include work-from-home situations. The Order specifically states businesses may continue operations consisting exclusively of employees or contractors performing activities at their own residences (i.e., working from home).
  • All places of public amusement, whether indoors or outdoors, must close to the public.

2.  All Illinois businesses can continue Minimum Basic Operations, which include:

  • The minimum necessary activities to maintain the value of the business’s inventory, preserve the condition of the business’s physical plant and equipment, ensuring security processing payroll and employee benefits, or for related functions; and
  • The minimum necessary activities to facilitate employees of the business being able to continue to work remotely from their residences.

3.  All Illinois businesses – whether conducting Minimum Basic Operations or exempt as an Essential Business or Operation – must comply with Social Distancing Requirements while carrying out such operations. 

Under the Order’s Social Distancing Requirements, employees must:

  • Maintain at least six-foot social distancing from other individuals;
  • Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds as frequently as possible, or use hand sanitizer;
  • Cover coughs or sneezes into the sleeve of the elbow, not hands;
  • Regularly clean high-touch surfaces; and
  • Abstain from shaking hands.

Furthermore, businesses are required to take proactive measures to ensure compliance with these Social Distancing Requirements, including where possible:

  • Designating with signage, tape, or by other means, six-foot spacing for employees and customers;
  • Having hand sanitizer and sanitizing products readily available;
  • Implementing separate operating hours for elderly and vulnerable customers; and
  • Posting online whether a facility is open and how to best reach the facility and continue services by phone or remotely.

4.  Essential Businesses and Operations are exempt from this Order and are “encouraged to remain open.”

Such Essential Businesses and Operations include:

  • Stores that sell groceries and medicine;
  • Food, beverage, and cannabis production and agriculture;
  • Organizations that provide charitable and social services;
  • Media (newspaper, television, radio, and other media services);
  • Gas stations, and businesses needed for transportation;
  • Financial institutions (including banks, currency exchanges, and consumer lenders);
  • Hardware and supply stores;
  • Critical trades (including but not limited to plumbers, electricians, exterminators, janitorial and cleaning, HVAC, painting, and moving and relocation services);
  • Mail, post, shipping, logistics, delivery, and pick-up services;
  • Educational institutions (including public and private);1
  • Laundry services;
  • Restaurants for consumption off-premises;
  • Supplies to work from home;
  • Supplies for essential business and operations (including IT equipment, computers, electronics, hardware, sanitary equipment, food, beverages, etc.);
  • Transportation (including public and private transit, airlines, taxis, transportation networks such as ride-sharing services);
  • Home-based care and services for adults, children, people with disabilities, substance use disorders, and/or mental illness (this includes nannies and in-home meal delivery);
  • Day care centers granted an emergency license to care for children of employees exempted by the Order;
  • Residential facilities and shelters;
  • Professional services (such as legal services, accounting services, insurance services, real estate services);
  • Manufacturing companies, distributors, and supply chain companies producing and supplying essential products and services in and for industries such as pharmaceutical, technology, biotechnology, healthcare, chemicals, sanitation, waste pickup and disposal, agriculture, food and beverage, transportation, energy, steel, petroleum and fuel, mining, construction, national defense, and communications;
  • Critical labor union functions for purposes of personnel checking on well-being and safety of members in Essential Businesses and Operations, provided that checks are done by telephone or remotely where possible;
  • Hotels and motels, to the extent used for lodging and delivery or carry-out food service; and
  • Funeral services.

5.  Healthcare and Public Health Operations are exempt from this Order.

Individuals are permitted to perform work and services for Healthcare and Public Health Operations, including but not limited to:

  • Hospitals;
  • Clinics;
  • Dental offices;
  • Pharmacies;
  • Public health entities (including those that compile and communicate public health information);
  • Pharmaceutical, pharmacy, medical device/equipment, and biotechnology companies (including operations, research/development, manufacturing, and supply chain companies);
  • Licensed medical cannabis dispensaries and cultivation centers;
  • Reproductive healthcare providers;
  • Eye care centers;
  • Home healthcare services providers;
  • Mental health and substance abuse providers; and
  • Entities that transport and dispose of medical materials and remains.

This exemption includes “manufacturers, technicians, logistics, warehouse operators and distributors of medical equipment, personal protective equipment, medical gases, pharmaceuticals, blood and blood products, vaccines, testing materials, laboratory supplies, cleaning, sanitizing, disinfecting or sterilization supplies, and tissue and paper towel products.” Also included are veterinary care and healthcare services provided to animals.

The Order specifically states Healthcare and Public Health Operations do not include fitness and exercise gyms, spas, salons, barber shops, tattoo parlors, and similar facilities.

6.  Human Services Operations are also exempt.

The Order permits individuals to provide services to Human Services Operations, including but not limited to:

  • Any provider funded by the Illinois Department of Human Services, Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, or Medicaid that provides services to the public including state-operated, institutional, or community based settings;
  • Long-term care facilities;
  • Entities licensed pursuant to the Child Care Act, 225 ILCS 10, except for day care centers, day care homes, group day care homes, and day care centers;
  • Residential settings and shelters;
  • Adoption agencies; and
  • Businesses that provide food, shelter, and social services, and other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged individuals, individuals with disabilities, or otherwise needy individuals.

7.  The Order includes exemptions for Essential Infrastructure.

Individuals may provide services to Essential Infrastructure operations, including but not limited to:

  • Food production, distribution, and sale;
  • Construction;
  • Building management and maintenance;
  • Airport operations;
  • Utilities (including water, sewer, gas, and electrical) operations and maintenance;
  • Distribution centers;
  • Oil and biofuel refining;
  • Roads, highways, railroads, and public transportation, and ports;
  • Cybersecurity operations;
  • Flood control;
  • Solid waste and recycling collection and removal; and
  • Internet, video, and telecommunications systems (including the provision of essential global, national, and local infrastructure for computing services, business infrastructure, communications, and web-based services).

The Order states the term Essential Infrastructure is to be construed broadly to avoid any impacts to essential infrastructure.

8.  Essential Governmental Functions are exempt from the Order, which includes governmental employees providing essential government services, such as first responders, emergency management personnel, emergency dispatchers, court personnel, corrections personnel, hazardous materials responders, military, and child protection or welfare personnel.

9.  Enforcement plans are unclear at this time. While the Order states the Governor will have enforcement power pursuant to the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act, 20 ILCS 3305/7(2), (8), and (10), these citations provide no clear ramifications for employers failing to comply with the Order.  Further, the Governor acknowledged during the press conference that enforcement will be a difficult task, as Illinois may lack the resources, capacity, or desire to police every individual’s behavior. Nonetheless, law enforcement has been instructed to monitor for violations, and take “action” (of some sort) when necessary.

Additional information on the Order can be found at Illinois’ Coronavirus website.


See Footnotes

1  For the limited purpose of facilitating distance learning, performing critical research, or performing essential functions except that schools are to remain closed until April 7, 2020.

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.