Update: New York Governor Cuomo Orders Non-Essential Businesses to Reduce In-Office Workforce by 100%

3 minute read | March.20.2020

Update: At approximately 11:00 a.m. EST, Governor Cuomo announced that 100% of the non-essential NY workforce must now stay home. This directive is expected to take effect on Sunday evening March 22. Gov. Cuomo is expected to issue a new Executive Order regarding this directive shortly. Please check back here for updates.

Adding to a growing wave of local, state, and federal legislation addressing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, on March 18, 2020 (and revised on March 19, 2020), New York Governor Cuomo signed Executive Order 202.6, a measure intended to dramatically reduce the number of employees required to report to work on-site during the pandemic.

Effective Friday March 20, at 8 p.m. (and continuing until April 17, 2020), all businesses and not-for-profit entities in New York must reduce their in-person workforce at each work location by 75%, unless the business qualifies as an “essential business” under the order. New York State’s guidance issued late Thursday night on the order provides that businesses reduce the in-person workforce by 75% from “pre-state of emergency declaration employment levels,” or in other words, the employee count as of March 6, 2020, the day prior to the March 7 state of emergency declaration for New York.

The order applies to each business location in New York individually such that each work location must only have 25% of its pre-emergency employment levels after 8 p.m. on Friday March 20.  In addition, for businesses operating or providing both essential and non-essential services, supplies or support, only those lines and/or business operations that are necessary to support the essential services, supplies, or support are exempt from the restrictions. Notably, businesses that were ordered to close earlier this week under the state’s restrictions on large gatherings of 500 or more participants (such as restaurants, gyms, movie theatres, casinos, concerts, sporting events and more) must remain closed and are not eligible for designation as an essential business.

An “essential business” is defined as one of 12 general categories of businesses which includes:

  1. “essential health care operations” such as hospitals, walk in health facilities, doctor and dentist offices;

  2. “essential infrastructure” such as airports/airlines, utilities and telecommunications and data centers;

  3. “essential manufacturing” such as medical equipment/instruments, pharmaceuticals, and food processing;

  4. “essential retail” such as grocery and hardware stores, restaurants (only for take-out/delivery), pharmacies, and gas stations;

  5. “essential services” such as trash/recycling collection, mail and shipping, dry cleaning, child care services, storage for essential businesses, building cleaning and maintenance and auto repair;

  6. news media;

  7. financial institutions including banks, insurance, payroll and accounting firms;

  8. providers of basic necessities to disadvantaged populations, including shelters and food banks and human services providers whose function includes the care, protection, custody and oversight of individuals in the community;

  9. construction, including skilled trades and those necessary to emergency repair and safety;

  10. defense related operations;

  11. essential services necessary to maintain safety, sanitation and essential operations of residences such as law enforcement, building maintenance and doormen; and

  12. vendors that provide essential services or products, including “logistics and technology support, child care and services needed to ensure continuing operation of government agencies and provide for the health, safety and welfare of the public” such as essential government services and child care programs and services.

Businesses that do not fall into the 12 categories, and were not already closed by earlier state restrictions, may request designation as an essential business by completing an application form found here and submitting the form to the Empire State Development Corporation, the state’s economic development agent. Among other things, the form requests identification of the relevant industry, a description of the business function at the location seeking the designation, and the reason(s) for seeking the designation.  Notably, any business that only has a single occupant or employee at the work location is automatically deemed exempt from the order and is not required to submit a request to be designated as an essential business.

We will continue to monitor New York State’s response to COVID-19 and the implementation of Executive Order 202.6.