New York Governor Orders Non-Essential

By Fox Rothschild, LLP

On March 19, 2020, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order mandating that non-essential businesses put in place telecommuting or work-from-home procedures

On March 19, 2020, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that he will mandate that non-essential businesses put in place telecommuting or work-from-home procedures to the maximum extent possible, mandating that non-essential businesses reduce their in-person workforces by 75%. This expands a previous executive order the governor signed on March 18 that had set the workforce reduction to 50%. The governor is expected to issue a new executive order today.

The mandates take effect at 8 p.m. on Friday, March 20, 2020, and apply to all businesses and not-for-profit entities other than essential businesses and businesses providing essential services or functions, which are exempt from the mandates.

The original executive order does not define the criteria for, or universe of, essential businesses but provides a non-exhaustive list, including:


  • essential health care operations including research and laboratory services;
  • essential infrastructure including utilities, telecommunication, airports and transportation infrastructure;
  • essential manufacturing, including food processing and pharmaceuticals;
  • essential retail including grocery stores and pharmacies;
  • essential services including trash collection, mail and shipping services;
  • news media;
  • banks and related financial institutions;
  • providers of basic necessities to economically disadvantaged populations;
  • construction; vendors of essential services necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation and essential operations of residences or other essential businesses; and 
  • vendors that provide essential services or products, including logistics and technology support, child care and services needed to ensure the continuing operation of government agencies and provide for the health, safety and welfare of the public.

The executive order directs the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) to issue guidance as to which businesses are determined to be essential no later than 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 19, 2020. Any business not falling within the categories listed above or within the forthcoming guidance may be deemed essential after requesting an opinion from ESDC. In evaluating these requests, ESDC shall determine whether “it is in the best interest of the state to have the workforce continue at full capacity in order to properly respond to this disaster.”

This executive order follows an earlier order in which Gov. Cuomo ordered the full closure of the indoor areas of shopping malls and full closure of “places of public amusement,” including amusement parks, bowling alleys, zoos, children’s arcades and similar businesses, effective at 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 19, 2020.

For more information about this alert, please contact Carolyn D. Richmond at or 212.878.7983, Jordan E. Pace at or 212.878.7993, Glenn S. Grindlinger at or 212.905.2305, or any member of the firm’s New York Labor & Employment Department.


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