In an effort to reduce in-person workforces in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Connecticut has joined New York, California, Pennsylvania, Illinois, New Jersey, and several other jurisdictions in restricting the operation of “non-essential” businesses. More specifically, on March 20, Governor Ned Lamont issued an executive order requiring all “non-essential” businesses to reduce their in-person workforces by 100 percent by tonight (March 23) at 8 p.m. “Non-essential” businesses may, however, permit staff on-site to the minimum extent necessary to provide security, maintenance and receipt of mail and packages. “Non-essential” retailers may be staffed on-site, provided that they only offer remote ordering and curbside pick-up or delivery. This measure is scheduled to last until April 22. The governor’s order emphasizes implementing remote work arrangements for all employers to the greatest extent possible.

“Essential” businesses, however, are, as in many other jurisdictions with similar executive orders, exempt from Governor Lamont’s decree. To that end, the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) last night issued guidance on which businesses are considered “essential” under the executive order. These businesses include:

  • Health care and related operations (for example, hospitals, doctors’ offices, pharmacies)
  • Services (for example, legal, accounting, financial advisors, insurance companies, real estate transactions, and related services)
  • Retail (for example, grocery stores, gas stations, liquor stores)
  • Construction
  • Infrastructure
  • Manufacturing and supply chains
  • Food and agriculture
  • Defense
  • Providers of basic necessities to economically disadvantaged populations
  • Services necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation, and essential operations of all residences and other buildings
  • Vendors that provide essential services or products, including logistics and technology support, child care, and services needed to ensure the continuing operation of government agencies and provide for the health, safety, and welfare of the public
  • Essential workers in the 16 critical infrastructure sectors as defined by the Department of Homeland Security

The executive order provides the ability for businesses to obtain a waiver in order to be considered an essential business. This may be done by requesting an opinion from DECD, which will review and grant such requests should it determine that it is in the best interest of the state to have the workforce continue at full capacity to properly respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Connecticut employers should review the executive order and related guidance immediately to determine whether their operations are considered “essential” under the same. If you have any questions on whether your business is “essential” under this new measure, or have any other questions with respect to workforce management in the wake of COVID-19, please contact Reed Smith’s labor and employment team.