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LA OKs Reopening Protocols For Lower-Risk Businesses, While Most Safer-At-Home Directives Persist
May 23, 2020

LA OKs Reopening Protocols For Lower-Risk Businesses, While Most Safer-At-Home Directives Persist

Topics: COVID-19

The City and County of Los Angeles have each begun to ease into “Stage 2” of their “Roadmap To Recovery” by revising their “Safer at Home” orders progressively over the course of the last ten days.  The mayoral and county public health orders continue to maintain that everyone living within LA (City and County) is to remain in their homes “as much as possible,” and should telework or work from home as much as possible, where feasible. The County order (revised yesterday) expressly states that people 65 or older and all people of any age who have active or unstable pre-existing health conditions “should remain in their residences” (unless seeking medical treatment or obtaining food and necessities), and “strongly recommends that employers offer telework or other accommodations to persons who are age 65 or older and” those with “pre-existing health conditions.”     

Yet, LA is permitting its residents to engage in a number of enumerated activities and to go to certain places, and with each revision to the Safer at Home Orders, the list of permissible places and activities continues to grow.  The stated reason for the most recent order revisions is to allow for the conditional reopening of specific retail and other “Lower-Risk” businesses, while keeping a low incidence of person-to-person contact, and ensuring continued social distancing and other COVID-19 infection-control protocols. 

Importantly, previously closed “non-essential” (i) “retailers” that are not located within an indoor mall or shopping center, as well as (ii) “manufacturing and logistics sector businesses,” now “may reopen provided” certain rules are followed:

  • Members of the public may not to be permitted entry inside a retail establishment, but customers may be provided goods and services via curbside, doorside, outdoor, and at-home delivery or pickup;
  • Lower-risk retail establishments must prepare, implement and post LA County’s “Public Health Reopening Protocol For Retail Establishments”; and
  • Lower-risk businesses in other sectors must prepare, implement and post LA County’s Public Health Reopening Protocol for their given business.

There are currently 13 published business and activity-specific reopening protocols (respectively entitled, “Beaches,” “Bike Parks,” “Car Dealerships,” “Community Gardens,” “Equestrian Centers,” “Golf Courses,” “Model Airplane Area,” “Outdoor Shooting Facilities,” “Retail Establishments,” “Warehousing, Manufacturing, Logistics Protocol,” “Substance Use Disorder and Mental Health,” “Tennis Pickleball Courts,” and “Trails”).  

The various health protocols applicable to settings and industries where employees will be working each direct employers to conduct “symptom checks before employees are permitted to enter the workspace” including the statement that “a temperature check should be done at the worksite if feasible.”  (Unhelpfully, the protocols do not define the parameters of concept of feasibility.)

Despite this overlap, the 13 protocols are by no means identical.  They have different provisions for customer product testing, employee breaks, where employees may eat meals, and hand-washing.  Familiarity with and adoption of the appropriate protocol applicable to a “Lower-Risk” company’s business is critical before that business can reopen.  LA City employers are required to post their applicable health protocol near the entrance of their facility (the City order does not make clear whether the protocol must be posted at all entrances if the business has more than one).   Failure to comply with the orders and health protocols subjects noncompliant companies to cessation of water and power, fines, and/or misdemeanor liability depending on the infraction in question. 

For now, so-called “higher-risk” businesses, recreational sites, commercial properties, and activities – where more frequent and prolonged person-to-person contacts are likely to occur – must remain closed regardless of safety protocols.  These include, but are not limited to, fitness centers, bars, theaters, museums, zoos, libraries, in-facing mall establishments, group sports, and personal grooming establishments. 

So, while we seem to be making positive progress, there is still a long way to go.  Hopefully, we will soon be posting about LA’s ascent into Stage 3 of the Reopening Plan, and I will have finally had a haircut.   

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Robin Largent has a regular presence in California state and federal courts and has been lead defense counsel and appellate counsel for large and small California employers in litigation (and arbitration) ranging from individual discrimination and harassment claims to complex wage and hour representative and class actions. She also leads the firm’s appellate practice, having substantial experience and success handling appeals, writ petitions, and amicus briefs in both state and federal court on issues such as class certification (particularly in the wage and hour arena), manageability and due process concerns associated with class action trials, exempt/non-exempt misclassification issues, meal and rest break compliance, trade secret/unfair competition matters, and the scope of federal court jurisdiction under the Class Action Fairness Act.
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