Tom Dunlap HeadshotBy Tom Dunlap

Dunlap is a partner practicing out of Dunlap Bennett & Ludwig’s Leesburg, VA office

Governors across the country are closing schools for the rest of the academic year, but the biggest change that is amplifying the strain on the economy and lives comes in the form of non-essential business closures.  The Zoom virtual conference app has been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times in the last two weeks more than it has ever collectively been downloaded in a whole year.

The question then is what is a non-essential business, and for so-called essential businesses – how can they remain open?

I will use a more recent order – executive order number 53 from the Virginia governor Ralph Northam.  This affects almost 100 of our law firm’s employees in Virginia between Tysons corner, Leesburg and Richmond.  The order bans public gatherings of 10 or more people (so nine people are the legal max – but we don’t recommend even that if you can avoid it) and closes all food courts, bars, and public gather locations, and closes non-essential businesses. If you are not listed you are not specifically non-essential.

The following recreation and entertainment businesses are considered non-essential and must close to the public beginning at 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, March 24, 2020:

  • Theaters, performing arts centers, concert venues, museums, and other indoor entertainment centers;
  • Fitness centers, gymnasiums, recreation centers, indoor sports facilities, indoor exercise facilities;
  • Beauty salons, barbershops, spas, massage parlors, tanning salons, tattoo shops, and any other location where personal care or personal grooming services are performed that would not allow compliance with social distancing guidelines to remain six feet apart;
  • Racetracks and historic horse racing facilities;
  • Bowling alleys, skating rinks, arcades, amusement parks, trampoline parks, fairs, arts and craft facilities, aquariums, zoos, escape rooms, indoor shooting ranges, public and private social clubs, and all other places of indoor public amusement.

However – all brick and mortar businesses that are not listed must limit their total people count to 9 or less and implement sanitization procedures, etc.

Professional businesses not listed above must utilize telework as much as possible. Where telework is not feasible, such businesses must adhere to social distancing recommendations, enhanced sanitizing procedures, and apply relevant workplace guidance from state and federal authorities, including CDC, OSHA, and the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry.

Businesses in violation of this order may be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Nothing in Executive Order Fifty-Three limits the provision of health care or medical services, access to essential services for low-income residents, such as food banks; the operations of the media; law enforcement agencies; or operations of government.

How is DBL dealing with this?  We have implemented a telework form for all employees that asks how they will work remotely:

  1. Address of remote workplace
  2. Location in the house – is it a dedicated space during working hours>?
  3. Working hours?
  4. Distractions or obligations (child care, child schooling) that may interfere or reduce hours.
  5. Availability policy – 15 – 30 minutes notice between 9 am and 5 pm.
  6. Technology used: RingCentral on own phone, work phone, Ethernet connection, work laptop
  7. Data security reminders.
  8. In-office rotation schedule

We are rotating employees during the work and have placed sanitization stations and wipes with a family wipe down protocol in every physical office space.  We further have instructed people, even when in the office together – to prefer video chat via our office chat service – or to use face time

Stay abreast of this by subscribing to the Blackletter podcast and following DBL’s Facebook or LinkedIn pages as laws and requirements change we will keep you updated.

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Posted in: Business Law, Client Alerts