As one part of its continuing approach to combating the COVID-19 pandemic, New York State will soon be requiring employers statewide to utilize remote work arrangements to the maximum extent feasible and to slash the number of employees in their physical work locations.

Pursuant to an executive order issued by Governor Andrew Cuomo late last night, effective as of 8 p.m. EDT on March 20, all businesses within the Empire State will be required to utilize, to the maximum extent possible, any remote working procedures that they can safely implement. Perhaps equally, if not more, impactful on the business community, also by 8 p.m. EDT on March 20, all New York employers will be required to reduce their in-person workforces at any physical work locations by 50 percent.

Notably, however, the governor’s executive order exempts certain essential businesses and entities providing essential services or functions from the above in-person restrictions. This includes:

  • Essential health care operations, including research and laboratory services
  • Essential infrastructure, including utilities, telecommunications, airports and transportation infrastructure
  • Essential manufacturing, including food processing and pharmaceuticals
  • Essential retail, including grocery stores and pharmacies
  • Essential services, including trash collection, mail, and shipping services
  • News media
  • Banks and related financial institutions
  • Providers of basic necessities to economically disadvantaged populations
  • Construction
  • Vendors of essential services necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation and essential operations of residences or other essential businesses
  • 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

Any other business seeking clarification or an exemption from the in-person restrictions may request an opinion as to their essential status from the Empire State Development Corporation, which shall also issue further guidance by 5 p.m. EDT today as to which businesses are determined to be essential.

Reed Smith’s employment lawyers will continue to monitor federal, state, and local workplace developments related to COVID-19. If you have questions or would like additional information on the material covered in this blog, please contact the Reed Smith lawyer with whom you regularly work.