Vigilant Blog

News, trends and analysis in employment law, HR, safety & workers' comp

Mar 24, 2020

Governments issue “shelter-in-place” orders


The states of California, Oregon, and Washington, along with several individual counties and cities, have issued “shelter-in-place” orders in the past few days to combat the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus). While each of these orders is slightly different, the general purpose is the same: a governmental authority is implementing an order to restrict the movement of individuals in their area.

For employers, these orders can create confusion over whether your business is allowed to continue operating and whether individual employees are allowed to travel for work. Below is a list of orders impacting members in California, Oregon, and Washington and a brief description of what is prohibited or required under each order. At this time, none have been issued in Idaho or Montana. We’ve had several members ask whether they may qualify as “essential businesses,” which are allowed to continue operating even when movement of individuals is restricted. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security recently published Guidance on the Essential Critical Workforce, but not all of the shelter-in-place orders are using this guidance to determine which businesses can continue operating. The Homeland Security guidance specifically says that it’s merely a resource which state and local authorities may use to establish their own standards.

Vigilant encourages you to read the order that governs your location(s) and determine how it applies to your business. The Vigilant Law Group employment attorneys can help you understand what order applies to your business and what restrictions may be in place, but we may not be able to determine whether your company fits within the definition of an industry described. Ultimately, each company will have to evaluate whether their individual business operations are allowed to continue operating under the applicable order, and what measures they can put in place to ensure compliance.

As we previously reported, Governor Gavin Newsom issued a shelter-in-place order on March 19, 2020 and local “shelter-in-place” orders were issued in the San Francisco Bay Area, including Santa Clara County.

Governor Kate Brown issued a “Stay Home, Save Lives” order on March 23, 2020, which closed a specific list of businesses (primarily businesses open to the public, such as gyms, day spas, shopping malls, etc.) and required individuals to stay at their place of residence whenever possible. Any business or non-profit entity that can facilitate telework for employees must do so; work in offices is prohibited if work-from-home options are available. All businesses that aren’t closed by the order must designate an employee or officer to establish, implement, and enforce social distancing policies (including addressing how social distancing protocols will be enforced for business-critical visitors). Any business that doesn’t facilitate telework options if available, or ensure implementation and enforcement of social distancing policies, could be closed until they can demonstrate compliance. Most of Governor Brown’s order went into effect on March 24, 2020, except for the requirement that businesses provide telework options if available which goes into effect on March 25, 2020. The order is in effect until the governor terminates it.

Vigilant will be developing a Social Distancing Policy to help employers comply with the Oregon order. In the meantime, however, you should appoint at least one person at your facility to establish, implement, and enforce a social distancing policy that ensures your facility is keeping employees and visitors at least six feet away from each other. Communicate your designation to your on-site workforce and give the individual the authority to immediately implement appropriate protections for all workers and guests. Review the CDC’s Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) for more information about what factors you should consider as you develop a social distancing policy for your workplace.

On March 23, 2020, Governor Jay Inslee announced his Stay Home – Stay Healthy Order that requires all Washington residents to stay at home and all non-essential businesses to close for two weeks, effective at midnight, March 25. The order prohibits all people in Washington State from leaving their homes unless they’re participating in “essential activities” or employed in “essential business services.” To be employed in essential business services, workers must be identified in Washington’s “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers” list, or carrying out basic minimum operations for a non-essential business (e.g., security, payroll, or facilitating remote work). If you’re an essential business, you must establish and enforce social distancing and sanitation measures established by the United States Department of Labor’s Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19 and the Washington State Department of Health Workplace and Employer Resources & Recommendations. This means ensuring a distance of six feet between workers, closing lunch rooms, canceling group meetings, and following cleaning protocol.

Vigilant encourages you to review Washington’s list to evaluate whether your business qualifies as part of the critical infrastructure sector and if so, which of your workers are essential in providing those business services. The state’s list of essential workers is broader than the list from the Department of Homeland Security. If your business doesn’t fit within Washington’s list, then you must close your facilities by midnight on March 25 and notify employees of the closure. To clarify the status of your business or to ask to be added to the list, you may email If employees can perform any work at home, you should implement necessary steps to allow them to continue working while complying with Governor Inslee's order. For those who can’t work at home, direct them to the Employment Security Department to evaluate their options for receiving pay while the Governor's order is in place.

Washington: City of Edmonds:
Effective at midnight on March 22, Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson issued an emergency stay-at-home order for Edmonds, Washington, residents. More information is available in the mayor’s press release.

Washington: City of Everett:
Effective at noon on March 23, 2020, Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin issued a directive for Everett, Washington, city residents to stay home except to engage in essential personal activities or to work to provide essential business, government services, or public infrastructure. For details, see the summary we sent to members with Everett locations.

Washington: Yakima County:
Effective on the evening of March 22, 2020, Dr. Teresa Everson, Health Officer of the Yakima County Health District in Washington, issued an order for Yakima County residents to stay home except to engage in essential personal activities or to maintain continuity of critical infrastructure sectors. For details, see the summary we sent to members with locations in Yakima County.

Tips for Employers: A number of our members are asking whether they should develop documentation for their employees to prove that they are leaving their home to work at a business that is allowed to continue operating. While none of the orders require employers to do this, you may want to consider providing this type of documentation to ease your employees’ fears about being stopped by authorities when they’re traveling for work. Members can contact their Vigilant Law Group employment attorney to discuss developing this type of document for employees.

This website presents general information in nontechnical language. This information is not legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific management decision, consult legal counsel.