This post was written at 11:15 a.m. on Monday, March 27, 2020. We believe that it was accurate and up to date as of that time. However, because of the rapid, daily changes in the political, business, and legal climates, we cannot guarantee the post’s currentness.

Over the last several days, local cities and counties have been implementing ordinances limiting activities or services available to individuals and businesses within the jurisdiction. While this post cannot summarize all local ordinances in Georgia, it is our hope to summarize common definitions of “essential business” or “essential workers” under the latest COVID-19 laws. It is important to note that in addition to local ordinances, there are other state and federal laws that have been implemented that may impact you and we encourage you to remain up-to-date on those laws. For information on Georgia’s State Executive Order and its impact on business, see our blog post from March 24, 2020.”

How do I know if my business is “essential”?

With new ordinances and laws passing every day in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses and workers are overwhelmed trying to determine whether their city law categorizes them as “essential”. While some ordinances clearly define what businesses must close and which may remain open, some ordinances provide no definition of essential. It is important to note that the definition of essential varies from city to city and state to state, but if your local ordinance does not provide a clear definition, here are some places to look for guidance:

Federal Guidance

One place to look for guidance on the definition of “essential” businesses and workers if it is not clearly defined in your local law is the federal guidelines released on March 19, 2020. It is important to keep in mind that these are just guidelines at this time. The federal guidelines include, but are not limited to, the following categories of personnel:

  • Healthcare providers and those that work in a role supporting healthcare providers
  • Manufacturers of healthcare equipment and those who distribute that equipment
  • Workers providing funeral and mortuary services
  • Law enforcement, first responders, 911 call centers, and those who supply digital services and support to those serving in law enforcement or emergency services
  • Farmers, food suppliers, food sanitation workers, grocery and convenience store employees, and others providing or transporting food
  • Workers in the propane, petroleum, electricity, and other energy source industry
  • Workers needed to maintain drinking water and drainage infrastructure

Workers enabling transportation, such as truck drivers, bus drivers, automotive repair facilities, truck stops, etc.

  • Workers who serve in a role essential to the operation, inspection, or maintenance of local public works
  • Workers such as plumbers, exterminators and others who serve sanitation needs
  • Workers who maintain communication centers
  • Workers who support radio, television, or other news reporting
  • Security guards who maintain safety and control access to businesses
  • Hotel workers in hotels that are being used for COVID-19 containment measures
  • Educators for the purpose of distance learning
  • Workers at nuclear facilities or those managing medical waste
  • Workers who are needed to process financial transactions or those who provide technological support for financial transactions
  • Workers involved in the production or supply chain of chemical and industrial gases, cleaning materials, and other materials used for sanitation or protective materials
  • Workers essential to national security, such as those in the U.S. Military

For a full list of the essential workers and businesses under these federal guidelines, visit https://www.cisa.gov/publication/guidance-essential-critical-infrastructure-workforce

Other Cities and Counties

If you an ordinance has been implemented where you live but does not define which workers and businesses are essential, you can also look to other cities or counties within Georgia for guidance.

Below is a summary, but not an exhaustive list, of what Henry County, Georgia has defined as “essential” in their Ordinance adopted March 27, 2020. You will notice it closely aligns with the federal guidelines above. Additionally, other cities in Henry County and across the state have adopted almost identical definitions of “essential workers” or “essential services”:

    • Healthcare Operations
    • Stores that sell groceries and medicine, including farmers markets and convenience stores and stores that sell materials necessary for safety, sanitation, and materials for residences
    • Food cultivation and agriculture
    • Organizations that provide charitable and social services
    • Media
    • Gas stations and businesses needed for transportation
    • Banks and credit unions
    • Plumbers, electricians, exterminators, and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences
    • Mail, post, shipping, logistics, delivery and pick-up services
    • Educational institutions for purposes of facilitating distance learning or performing essential functions
    • Laundry services
    • Restaurants for consumption off-premises
    • Businesses that supply products needed for people to work from home
    • Businesses or manufacturers that supply other essential businesses with the support or supplies necessary to operate
    • Transportation for purposes of Essential Travel
    • Home-based care and services
    • Residential facilities and shelters
    • Professional services, such as legal, accounting services, and real estate services
    • Businesses involved in construction or repairs for businesses and homes
    • Road construction, maintenance and repair and other construction services
    • Industrial manufacturers

Henry County Ordinance 20-01, adopted March 27, 2020.

There is a great deal of overlap between the federal guidelines and what local governments are adopting in their ordinances, which gives guidance to those who are trying to determine whether they are essential. If your local government has not provided their definition of essential, we hope these other sources of information provide some insight as to what is included in most definitions. Please keep in mind that each ordinance or law is different and you should read the applicable laws where you live carefully.

We are making this post to inform as much as possible. It is not our intent to give legal advice or to create an attorney/client relationship. If you need legal advice, please consult an attorney. If you have questions about your particular situation, please gives us a call, send us an email, or request a video conference. We’ll be happy to assist.