On April 3, 2020, the State of Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services issued an Order requiring Missouri residents to avoid leaving their homes or places of residence in an effort to slow the growing number of individuals who have contracted COVID-19. The Order goes into effect 12:01 a.m., Monday, April 6, 2020, and expires Friday, April 24, 2020, at 11:59 p.m.
If an individual needs to leave his/her home or place or residence to work, access food, prescriptions, health care, and other necessities, or engage in outdoor activity, he/she must engage in social distancing. In addition, the Order permits individuals to leave their home or place of residence to go to their place of worship so long as limitations on social gatherings and social distancing are adhered to.
With respect to employment, the Order provides that any entity that does not employ individuals to perform “essential worker functions” must adhere to the limitations on social gatherings and social distancing set forth in the Order. Specifically, with respect to social gatherings, there shall be no planned or spontaneous event or convening that would bring together more than ten people in a single space at the same time. As for social distancing, individuals must maintain six feet of space between each other at all times, including, for example, when customers are standing in line or when individuals are using shared indoor or outdoor spaces.
As for those entities that employ individuals who perform “essential worker functions,” the Order relies on guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) in defining this term. CISA has created an advisory list of workers who conduct a range of operations and services that are typically essential to continued infrastructure viability. The list is quite extensive and far too lengthy to reproduce here, but readers can view the areas covered here. In general, however, the industries included are:
- healthcare/public health
- law enforcement, public safety and other first responders
- food and agriculture – includes groceries, pharmacies, convenience stores and other retail that sells food or pet supplies, carry-out restaurants, food manufacturers, suppliers, and distributors, and farm workers, among others.
- water and wastewater
- transportation and logistics
- public works and infrastructure support services
- communications and information technology
- other community or government-based operations and essential functions
- critical manufacturing
- hazardous materials
- financial services
- defense industrial base
- commercial facilities
- residential/shelter facility and services
- hygiene products and services
As you can see from the foregoing list, the number of businesses that potentially could fall within the definition of “essential” is quite large.
The Order further states a retail sales entity that employs individuals to perform essential worker functions must limit the number of individuals in any particular location to 25% or less of the entity’s authorized fire or building code occupancy for locations less than 10,000 square feet. For locations with 10,000 square feet or more, the retail sales entity must limit the number of individuals within the facility to 10% or less of the entity’s authorized fire or building code occupancy.
With respect to enforcement, local health authorities are authorized by the Order to carry out and enforce the Order’s provisions “by any legal means.”
The St. Louis employment attorneys at McMahon Berger have been representing employers across the country in labor and employment matters for over sixty years, and are available to discuss these issues and others. As always, the foregoing is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice regarding any particular situation as every situation must be evaluated on its own facts. The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely on advertisements.