Stay Home and Closure of Non-Essential Businesses Orders


Although Iowa has not enacted a “stay-home” or “closure of non-essential businesses” order, many states (including states bordering Iowa such as Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin) have issued them.  These orders may impact operations for clients who have activities or a presence in states which have issued them. This update will discuss the typical components of a “stay-home” or “closure of non-essential businesses” order and how they may impact clients with operations or a presence in an affected state (or states).[1]

What is a “stay home” or “closure of non-essential businesses” order?

Like their names indicate, a “stay-home” or “closure of non-essential businesses” order is an order, issued either by a state’s governor or that state’s director of public health, which either directs that: (a) certain businesses (which are deemed “nonessential”) remain closed or exclusively work remotely; or (b) persons in that state stay home and refrain from all but certain activities.[2]  In addition, some businesses (which are deemed “essential” in the order) are encouraged to remain open as long as they follow social distancing guidelines.  Being named to the “essential businesses” list can be the difference between a business operating through an emergency or being forced to close its doors or operate on an extremely reduced basis.

What are the typical parts of these types of orders?

  1. Direction to Stay Home or Close – most orders will begin with an order for persons in that state to remain at their home (and/or for non-essential businesses to close) for a given period.  These periods vary from state-to-state, and could last as short a period as a few weeks or as long as indefinitely (until the governor issues an order which ends the stay-home or closure period).[3]  However, persons in that state will still be permitted to perform “essential activities”, discussed below.
  2. List of Essential Activities – all orders will contain a list of activities which persons in that state are permitted to perform while “staying home” which will not violate the order.  These include activities like going to the grocery store, exercising outdoors (while maintaining social distance), or working for an “essential business or operation.”
  3. List of Essential Businesses or Operations – in order to continue a state’s government, public health, or essential economic operations, states will designate certain activities as “essential businesses and operations”, which will be allowed to continue for the duration of the order.  Such activities include things like law enforcement and running hospitals, but also includes parts of the private sector as well.  The list of businesses deemed essential varies from state-to-state[4] – and as mentioned above, being on the “essential” list can be a crucial protection for a business. 
  4. Enforcement – An order is worthless if it cannot be enforced.  With this in mind, many stay-home or closure orders will specify penalties for violators of that order or will refer to the sections of that state’s law that will be used to punish an order violator.  How rigorously an order will be enforced varies from state to state – although some states are emphasizing education about the order for first-time violators, it should not be assumed that any state will be lenient.

Conclusion

Although Iowa has not issued either of the types of orders discussed in this update, many other states have, and these orders may impact operations for businesses with a presence in multiple states.  Knowing the details of the applicable orders may be critical to a business continuing its operations rather than being forced to close in one or more states.

If you have questions about the impact of a state’s “stay-home” or business closure order on your business, please contact Karl Sigwarth at (319) 358-5568 or ksigwarth@bradleyriley.com.


[1] Please note that this newsletter provides general coverage of its subject area, is intended as educational material, and does not constitute rendering legal advice.  We encourage clients or prospective clients in search of legal advice to discuss the details of their particular matter with an attorney.

[2] It is possible that a “stay-home” order may also contain closures of non-essential businesses; also, because these orders are issued on a state-by-state basis, each order will be slightly different.

[3] Governors or public health directors could also extend an order if, in their judgment, the situation warrants it.

[4] As an example, whether a firearms or ammunition retailer is considered to be an “essential business or operation” varies from state to state.