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Florida Governor Issues Safer At Home Order – What Do Businesses Need To Know? (UPDATED)

4.2.20

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued a Safer At Home Order for the State of Florida yesterday. It goes into effect just after midnight (at 12:01 am) on the morning of Friday, April 3, 2020, and is set to expire on Thursday, April 30, 2020. The Order limits movement and personal interaction outside of the home to only those necessary to obtain or provide essential services, or to conduct essential activities.

The term “essential services” is defined as and encompasses the list detailed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in its Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce. Essential services also include the businesses and activities designated by Florida Executive Order 20-89 and its attachment, which consists of the list propounded by Miami-Dade County Emergency Order 07-20, as amended in multiple orders. Other essential services may be added under the Order and nothing in the Order prohibits individuals from working from home.

Thus, when determining whether your business qualifies as an essential business, you should consult the Department of Homeland Security’s Guidance and Miami-Dade County Emergency Order 07-20 and its amendments. The Order also indicates that a current list of essential services will be maintained on the Florida Department of Health’s website. For purposes of the Order, essential activities also include attending religious services, participating in recreational activities (consistent with social distancing guidelines), taking care of pets, and caring for or otherwise assisting a loved one or friend.

State v. Local Law

Governor DeSantis has taken a gradual approach to social distancing measures related to COVID-19. On March 17, he ordered all bars and restaurants across the state to discontinue all dine-in service. On March 27, the he ordered all persons who enter the state of Florida after being in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut to isolate or self-quarantine for two weeks

In the meantime, the state’s largest counties, including Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Orange, and Hillsborough, issued Stay at Home or Safer at Home orders requiring residents to stay home, with certain exceptions, and ordering all non-essential businesses to close, or cease in-person operations. In some cases, however, these orders were only limited to those non-essential businesses that could not perform their work in adherence with the Centers for Disease Control guidance regarding social-distancing and other sanitary matters. Miami-Dade’s business closure order went into effect on March 19, while Orange County and Hillsborough followed on March 26 and 27, respectively.

Governor DeSantis’ Order supersedes any conflicting order issued by local officials but only to the extent that such local order allows essential services or essential activities that are prohibited by the State of Florida’s April 1, 2020 Safer At Home Order. However, also on April 1, 2020, Governor DeSantis issued an amendment clarifying that the Safer At Home Order supersedes any conflicting official action or order issued by local officials in response to COVID-19. Therefore, the list of essential businesses set forth in the Governor’s Order is now the only applicable essential businesses list in the state. 

Additionally, Governor DeSantis released FAQs to assist with interpreting his Safer at Home Order. The FAQs state that local authorities can adopt requirements directly on businesses, operations or venues, including buildings, beaches and parks that may be stricter than the Governor’s Executive Order.

Senior Citizens And Individuals With Significant Underlying Medical Conditions

Governor DeSantis’ Order directs senior citizens and individuals with a significant underlying medical condition to stay at home and take all measures to limit the risk of COVID-19. The Order references a few such significant underlying medical conditions, which include chronic lung disease, moderate-to-severe asthma, serious heart conditions, immunocompromised status, cancer, diabetes, severe obesity, renal failure, and liver disease.       

However, the FAQs released by Governor DeSantis clarify that senior citizens and individuals with significant underlying medical conditions are permitted to leave their homes when necessary to obtain or provide essential services or to conduct essential activities. Therefore, senior citizens and individuals with significant medical conditions are permitted to leave their homes to go to work at an essential business. Employers should refer to Fisher Phillips’ "Top 10 Things Employers Need To Know About DOL's New COVID-19 Rules" for guidance on how Executive Order 20-91 impacts employee eligibility for Emergency Paid Sick Leave in light of the recently issued FAQs.

What Is An Essential Business?

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce Guidance and Miami-Dade County Emergency Order 07-20 and its amendments include the following as Essential Businesses:

HEALTH CARE OPERATIONS

INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORTATION, AND MARINE SERVICES

MANUFACTURING

RETAIL

SERVICES

NEWS MEDIA

FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS

PROVIDERS OF BASIC NECESSITIES TO ECONOMICALLY DISADVANTAGED POPULATIONS

CONSTRUCTION

DEFENSE

SERVICES NECESSARY TO MAINTAIN THE SAFETY AND ESSENTIAL OPERATIONS OF RESIDENCES OR OTHER ESSENTIAL BUSINESSES

PET CARE

AGRICULTURE

AUTOMOBILE AND VEHICLE-RELATED OPERATIONS

HARDWARE STORES AND TRADESMEN

EDUCATION

LOGISTICS

SENIOR CARE

CHILDCARE

OTHER OPERATIONS DEEMED ESSENTIAL

What Does This Mean For Employers?

Employers with operations in Florida should review the CISA guidance and Miami-Dade County Emergency Order 07-20, and its amendments, to determine if they are deemed non-essential and must close beginning on April 3, 2020 at 12:01 am. 

Employers should also be prepared to address concerns from older employees and employees with underlying significant health conditions regarding whether or not they must come in to work. Employers should also carefully assess the availability of telework for these employees.

Conclusion

We will continue to monitor the rapidly developing COVID-19 situation and provide updates as appropriate. Make sure you are subscribed to Fisher Phillips’ Alert System to get the most up-to-date information. For further information, contact your Fisher Phillips attorney, any attorney in any of our Florida offices, or any member of our COVID-19 Taskforce. You can also review our nationwide Comprehensive and Updated FAQs for Employers on the COVID-19 Coronavirus and our FP Resource Center For Employers, maintained by our Taskforce.


This Legal Alert provides an overview of a specific state law. It is not intended to be, and should not be construed as, legal advice for any particular fact situation.

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