By Amy E. Ebeling, Mary Ellen Schill and Derek L. Prestin
March 24, 2020
As expected, on Tuesday, March 24, 2020, Governor Evers issued Safer at Home Order #12, requiring individuals across the state of Wisconsin (with exceptions) to stay at home starting at 8:00 AM on Wednesday, March 25, 2020 in order to combat the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This Order will remain in effect until 8:00 AM on Friday, April 24, 2020, unless rescinded or modified.
All businesses and operations in the State, except those deemed as “essential businesses and operations”, are required to cease all activities at facilities within the State with the exception of “minimum basic operations” (as discussed below).
Although even essential businesses and operations must use best efforts to use remote work and avoid in-person meetings, essential businesses and operations may continue essential activities at their facilities. Examples of “essential” businesses and operations include healthcare and public health operations (hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, blood banks, etc.), human services (rehabilitation centers, transitional facilities, long-term care facilities), and essential infrastructure (food production, critical construction, utilities operations, distribution, communications, etc.). Healthcare and public health operations, human services, and essential infrastructure business categories are to be construed broadly so as to avoid any impacts to these industries. Please refer to the Order for the State’s list of essential businesses and operations.
However, just because a business is not explicitly listed in the Order does not mean it is deemed “non-essential”. Employees may leave their residence to work for manufacturing companies, distributors, and supply chain companies producing and supplying essential products and services in and for industries such as pharmaceutical, healthcare, agriculture, food and beverage, defense, transportation, energy, as well as products used by other essential businesses and operations. Companies should assess their customer base to determine to what extent they may be providing essential products and services to essential businesses. Some companies are sending notices to vendors and suppliers that they deem essential. It should be noted, though, that, even if some of a business’ operations are essential, that does not mean that all of its operations are essential.
Non-essential businesses may continue operations consisting exclusively of employees or contractors performing activities at their own residences. Further, employees of non-essential businesses may leave their residence for work if the employee is engaging in minimum basic operations of the business. These types of activities are limited to the minimum necessary activities to maintain the value of the business’s inventory, preserve the condition of the business’s physical plant and equipment, ensure security, process payroll and employee benefits, or for related functions. In other words, these employees are carrying out the minimum necessary activities to facilitate employees of the business being able to continue to work remotely from their residences.
Businesses that are not certain whether they qualify as an essential business or operation can request a designation from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation using the form provided at www.wedc.org/essentialbusiness.
The team at Ruder Ware is ready to assist you and your business in assessing risks and strategies associated with what is deemed an “essential business or operation”.
The content in the following blog posts is based upon the state of the law at the time of its original publication. As legal developments change quickly, the content in these blog posts may not remain accurate as laws change over time. None of the information contained in these publications is intended as legal advice or opinion relative to specific matters, facts, situations, or issues. You should not act upon the information in these blog posts without discussing your specific situation with legal counsel.
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