McGeorge Adjunct Professor Chris Micheli

While most of the public is trying to comply with the shelter in place orders that’ve now been instituted statewide, of course, with very stern warnings to comply to help curb the spread of this new coronavirus, there have been a number of people who have jobs that are deemed so critical that they actually can’t, or shouldn’t, comply with these shelter in place orders. Many of these mission‑critical jobs, as you can imagine, are low wage. Some won’t pay their employees at all if they stay home. Just like the chaos of this unprecedented pandemic, what constitutes an essential service or not has also been rather chaotic.

There have been, over the last week and a half, several California counties who’ve attempted to specify different industries or professions, while other local jurisdictions didn’t make any listing. Initially, the state of California didn’t specify and left the determination to the local jurisdictions as to what was or was not an essential service. Finally, the state did utilize the federal list that was developed.

After these crazy couple of days, the first weekend under the shelter in place had arrived, and so did a clarification. Basically, the governor’s executive order included reference to a 14‑page listing of what were deemed essential, critical infrastructure workers. This comprehensive list ranges from first responders to restaurant delivery people. Thankfully, this 14‑page document was also accompanied by a list of answers to frequently asked questions. These FAQs, very importantly, also made clear that the state order takes precedence, although cities and counties can in fact impose tighter restrictions, which several of them have.

How do you determine whether you are or are not an essential service? The first step in this assessment process is for a company to determine whether the business, or some portion of their business, falls within the identified critical sectors. As you can probably imagine, in some cases, a business will not fall neatly within one or more of these critical sectors.

Once a business confirms its inclusion within one of these critical infrastructure sectors, then the business needs to identify which of its functions can remain open and in operation, and which should be shut down. Operations that can be performed remotely should be and your employees should be provided with the equipment that is reasonably necessary to conduct their work remotely.

Employees who are critical to the operation of the portion of the business that is continuing to operate need to be instructed with rules of engagement. In other words, guidance on how to comply with social distancing rules, the use of PPE – the personal protective equipment – and any other applicable health and safety guidance that is appropriate for your workforce.

You can find the full transcript of today’s podcast here.