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Workplace Compliance Rules for the Southern States

Emily Hartman /

[Updated 2/12/21]

Below is a round-up of workplace compliance rules and regulations employers need to know to keep their business compliant. If you believe there may be a discrepancy between a state and local order that affects you or your business, you should contact your local government and/or competent local counsel for further advice.

Alabama COVID-19 State Regulations

Updated: Unemployment Benefits

Who: Alabama employers and employees

When: March 23, 2020

Updated 11/8/20: Final Rule 480-4-2-.19 was issued to extend the emergency requirements for employers to notify employees of their unemployment benefits at the time of separation. This rule is effective on November 14, 2020.

The Alabama Department of Labor has expanded unemployment benefits to include employees who are unable to work because of COVID-19. Employees are eligible to file a claim if they are:

  • Placed under quarantine by a medical care provider or government agency;
  • Laid off or sent home without pay because of concerns about COVID-19;
  • Diagnosed with COVID-19; or are
  • Caring for an immediate family member diagnosed with COVID-19

The ability of a worker to be ready and able to work will be altered based on the above concerns. Claimants won’t have to look for work during this time, but they will need to ensure they can return to work following an illness or quarantine.

Employees who work from home or receive sick or vacation time off aren’t eligible for unemployment.

Update 8/13/20: Starting July 10, 2020, employers are required to provide a notice about unemployment benefits upon separation. The required notice can be made by text message, flyer, or letter. The required language can be found on the Alabama Emergency Rule starting on Page 3. Additionally, the Alabama Department of Labor has new hire obligations for reporting returned furlough employees. Employers should review new hires and recalled employees for the past 12 months and ensure that they have met all reporting requirements for these workers.


  • Review your current business practices and update your unemployment policies to reflect this new policy.
  • As your business responds to the coronavirus, educate and inform your employees about all of their available options, as appropriate.

Additional Resource:

Alabama Department of Labor

Arkansas COVID-19 State Regulations

Face Covering Mandate

Update 10/5/20: The Face Covering Directive was updated to clarify that plastic face shields aren’t a mask or face covering substitute, although face coverings or masks that use a plastic space to display a person’s mouth (like those used for people who are hard of hearing or deaf) are acceptable.

Update 8/28/20: The Face Covering Directive was updated to ban valves on face coverings and discourage the use of single-layered bandanas and gaiters, see Page 2.

In Executive Order 20-43, Governor Asa Hutchinson declared that as of July 20, 2020, everyone in the state is required to wear a face covering over their mouth and nose in all indoor and outdoor situations where they are interacting with people outside of their household and can’t maintain a social distance of 6 feet.

There are several exceptions to this rule that can be found towards the end of page 2 of the Executive Order 20-43. The Arkansas Department of Health also issued a Face Coverings Directive with information about the exemptions.

Previously, Executive Order 20-41 allowed local jurisdictions to mandate face coverings.

Additional Resources

Arkansas Department of Health Face Mask Directive

Executive Order 20-43

Executive Order 20-41

Florida COVID-19 State Regulations

Florida COVID-19 regulations can be found here >>

Georgia COVID-19 State Regulations

Liability Law Effective

Who: Georgia businesses

When: Effective August 7, 2020 and applies to claims until July 14, 2021

What: SB 359,known as the Georgia COVID-19 Pandemic Business Safety Act, took effect on August 7, 2020 to protect businesses from employee and customer liability claims related to COVID-19, as long as there wasn’t gross negligence, willful and wanton misconduct, or reckless or intentional harm.

There are additional steps that businesses can take to protect their liability. One option is to use specific language on receipt, proof of purchase, wristband, ticket, etc. that states, in at least 10-point Arial font away from other text:

Any person entering the premises waives all civil liability against this premises owner and operator for any injuries caused by the inherent risk associated with contracting COVID-19 at public gatherings, except for gross negligence, willful and wanton misconduct, reckless infliction of harm, or intentional infliction of harm, by the individual or entity of the premises.

A business, including health care facilities and providers, can also post at the point of entry a sign that uses at least a one-inch Arial font placed apart from other text that says:


Under Georgia law, there is no liability for an injury or death for an individual entering these premises, if such injury or death results from the inherent risks of contracting COVID-19. You are assuming this risk by entering these premises.

Additional Resource

SB 359

Face Coverings and Masks

When: Starting April 27, 2020

What: The Governor released Executive Order and Executive Order which encourages residents to wear face coverings or masks when they leave homes.

Employees at restaurants and clubs must wear face coverings and ensure they are clean and replaced every day.

Emergency Unemployment Changes

Who: Georgia employers

When: Effective Immediately for the next 120 days or until the current rule changes or a new one proposed.


The Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) has closed to the public, but online access is available for unemployment and reemployment services. GDOL passed emergency rules for employers who file partial unemployment claims on behalf of their full-time employees:

  • All partial claims must be filed by employers online in the Employer Portal;
  • All employers must file partial claims bearing in mind any week the employee works less than full-time due to the partial or complete shutdown of the company because of a COVID-19 public health emergency; and
  • Any employer in violation of this rule must pay the Commissioner the full amount of benefits paid to the employee.

There are several scenarios when employers shouldn’t file a partial claim, including when employees:

  • Will be paid for a temporary layoff period (paid sick, paid vacation, etc.);
  • Were on previously scheduled leave before the layoff period (leave of absence or medical leave);
  • Are employed by a temporary agency and are currently working at your place of business;
  • Were employed in another state the last 18 months (employees can apply online themselves);
  • Were employed by the federal government or on active military service in the last 18 months (employees can apply online themselves).

When submitting a claim, employers are reminded to:

  • Report the employee’s name, social security number, date of birth that matches with the Social Security Administration’s records.
  • Ensure there are 7 days between payment week ending dates.
  • Don’t submit claims until after the week end date on the claim.
  • Report vacation pay, holiday pay, earnings, etc. for the week it was earned and not the week it was paid.
  • Report any additional income that employees are receiving, except Social Security benefits, jury duty income, or pay for weekend military reserve duty.


  • Identify any employees that you may need to file the partial claim.
  • Gather all relevant information from the employee to file the partial claim, as well as the necessary employer information.
  • Be sure to follow the correct steps when logging into the Employer Portal.

Additional Resources

GDOL Rules

Employer Portal

Georgia Department of Labor

Kentucky COVID-19 State Regulations

NEW: One-Time Unemployment Relief Payment Issued

On January 12, 2021, Governor Andy Beshear issued Executive Order 2021-025 to create the Unemployment One-Time Relief Payment Program.

Claimants are broken down into two major categories:

  • Claimants under any Office of Unemployment Insurance (OUI) programs who would have otherwise qualified for a 2020 FEMA Lost Wages Assistance, but their weekly benefit was below $100, and who had an approved claim in November and December 2020 but their weekly benefit was below $176.
  • Claimants under any OUI program between March 4 – October 31, 2020, with a verified identity and no fraud, but whose claims weren’t decided on and paid.

Claimants who fall within the first category will receive $400, while claimants in the second category will receive $1,000.

Additional Resources

Executive Order 2021-025 (January 12, 2021)

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear News

Kentucky Department of Health

Kentucky’s Response to COVID-19 Executive Orders

UPDATE 1/5/21: Face Covering Mandate

Update 1/5/21: Executive Order 2020-1056 was issued to extend the face covering mandate for another 30 days, starting January 1, 2021.

Update 12/3/20: Executive Order 2020-996 was issued on December 3, 2020 to extend the face covering mandate for another 30 days effective immediately. Everyone must wear a face covering when entering or waiting to enter any retail space, while waiting for or riding public transportation or ride-sharing service, outdoor spaces where physical distancing requirements can’t be met. Exemptions can be found on page 3 of the Order.

Update 10/12/2020: Executive Order 2020-856 issued on October 6, 2020, to extend the face mask requirement for 30 days

Update 9/8/20: Executive Order 2020-750 was issued to extend the face mask mandate for another 30 days.

Beginning July 10, 2020, all residents must wear a face covering whenever social distancing requirements can’t be met, regardless of whether inside and outside. Page 5 of Executive Order 2020-586 lists those people who are exempt from the requirement. On August 6, 2020, Governor Beshear announced that the face mask mandate will last another 30 days.

Emergency Bill with Business Provisions

Who: Kentucky businesses and employees

When: March 30, 2020

What: SB 150 provides the following support to businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic:

Grants an additional 30 days to pay fees or follow normal requirements for licenses that expire before the state of emergency ends. Additionally, any licensing entities may waive any administrative or licensing fees during this time.

Unemployment insurance: The time period before unemployment benefits start has been waived and the base period has expanded to include additional employees who otherwise might not have qualified, like the self-insured and self-employed. SB 150 specifically states that it applies to employees whose hours have been reduced by “more than 10% and less than 60%.”

Telehealth: Healthcare providers may provide telehealth services provided unless specifically prohibited by federal or state law or state medical governing bodies.


  • Review your current unemployment practices and update them according to the new requirements.
  • As you make employment decisions, be sure to provide the proper support and options to your employees.
  • Review any upcoming or past licenses and grants and determine if the administering agency or entity has provided any leniency during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Be prepared to pay fees, file paperwork, or any other necessary requirements once the state of emergency lifts and regular operations resume.

Additional Resources

SB 150

All Non-Life Sustaining In-Person Retail Suspended

Who: Kentucky employers and employees

When: March 23, 2020 until the state of emergency ends or the order is ended by law

What: Governor Andy Beshear issued an Executive Order that all “in-person retail businesses that aren’t life-sustaining” must be closed.

Certain life-sustaining businesses can remain open but must abide by all government hygiene and health guidelines. These businesses include:

  • Grocery stores and liquor stores;
  • Pharmacies;
  • Automotive parts, repairs, and tire stores, as well as vehicle rental stores;
  • Gas stations and convenience stores;
  • Banks and financial service institutions;
  • Hardware stores;
  • Supply stores for buildings, gardens, and supply dealers;
  • Warehouse clubs and supercenters;
  • Pet and pet supply stores.

Although the Executive Order does not list gun stores as a life-sustaining business, it makes clear that the state will not interfere with the legal sale of firearms during this time.

Businesses that must close:

  • Automobile and other vehicle dealers (dealers can continue providing parts, repairs, and service as noted above, but their showrooms must close);
  • Department, cosmetics, beauty supply, perfume, clothing, shoes, jewelry, luggage and other leather goods stores, used merchandise stores;
  • Optical goods stores;
  • Other health and personal health care stores;
  • Sporting goods stores;
  • Music and musical instruments;
  • Book stores;
  • Electronics and appliance stores;
  • Florists;
  • Office supplies, stationery and gift stores.

However, businesses that are deemed non-life sustaining can receive online and telephone orders so long as they can arrange local delivery or curbside pickup.


Determine whether your business is considered essential. Assess your current workforce for who may be able to work remotely or is essential to be onsite.

When you’ve developed a plan to respond to the new regulations, consult with your legal counsel to ensure it’s compliant with the state rules. If you’re considering layoffs or furloughs, bear in mind the WARN Act.

Build a communication strategy to implement these changes in your workforce.

Provide support to your employees during this time and make yourself available to answer their questions and concerns.

Additional Resource

Executive Order

Louisiana COVID-19 State Regulations

Face Covering Mandate

Proclamation Number 89 JBE 2020 was issued and effective on July 13, 2020, mandating all state residents ages 8 years or older to wear a face covering in public spaces, regardless of whether they’re indoors or outdoors. Exemptions from this mandate can be found on page 3 of the Proclamation.

Businesses must require all people who enter their facilities to wear a face covering, unless the business is located in a parish that has exempted itself from the Proclamation or if the individual is exempt from the mandate.

The Order is effective to July 24, 2020 and could be extended.

Liability Protections Legislation to Help Businesses

Governor John Bel Edwards signed House Bill 826 into law, providing businesses with liability protections from customers and employees who file claims related to COVID-19 exposure. The bill is retroactive to March 11, 2020, the date Louisiana declared a state of emergency.

The new law provides that:

  • Businesses aren’t liable for injuries or deaths related to actual or possible exposure of COVID-19, unless the business failed to substantially comply with federal, state, or local COVID-19-related requirements and the injury or death was a result of the business’s “gross negligence…or reckless misconduct.”
  • Event planners aren’t liable for injury or death related to actual or possible exposure of COVID-19 when hosting or organizing and event, such as an exhibition or sporting event, unless a result of “gross negligence…or reckless misconduct.”
  • Employees who contract COVID-19 in the workplace have no tort remedy unless the exposure was intentional.
  • Businesses that manufacture, distribute, or are involved in the business of Personal Protective Equipment in response to COVID-19 aren’t liable for injury or death caused by COVID-19, unless a result of “gross negligence…or reckless misconduct.”

Although the new law provides businesses with protection, it is still important to ensure that all Louisiana organizations are upholding federal, state, and local COVID-19-related requirements.

Additional Resource

HB 826

Mississippi COVID-19 State Regulations

Legislation Provides Liability Protection to Businesses

Effective July 8, 2020 retroactively effective back to March 14, 2020

What: Legislation SB 3049 was signed into law by Governor Tate Reeve to provide civil lawsuit protections for COVID-19-related activities. People and organizations aren’t liable for injuries or death resulting from actual or possible exposure to COVID-19 as long as the person or organization can show a good faith effort to adhere to public health guidelines and didn’t willfully or intentionally violate requirements.

Under this new law, people are defined as individuals, for-profit and non-profit organizations, associations, charitable organizations, religious entities, the state and political subdivisions, and health care organizations and professionals.

Health care professionals and organizations are also extended immunity in instances where they have provided from the start date of the declaration of emergency and up to one year following the emergency. Health care activities that are covered by the law include:

  • Services for screening, diagnosing, assessing, or treating people retroactively;
  • Delaying or canceling elective or unurgent services;
  • Diagnosing or treating people or using equipment or supplies that fall outside the normal scope of the professional’s license or practice;
  • Off label use of prescriptions that are related to the COVID-19 emergency;
  • Testing performed outside of a health care facility; and
  • Acts that are a result of the lack of staffing, facilities, equipment, supplies, or other resources.

The law, under section 5, also provides immunity to businesses that manufactures, sells, distributes, labels, donates, etc. products that are part of the pandemic response. These products could be anything from PPE, medical devices, or supplies and also includes the off-label use of medications and the use of diagnosis tests that are approved by or submitted to the FDA. It also covers people who supply PPE and sanitizing products to outside of their regular course of business.

Additional Resource

SB 3049

North Carolina COVID-19 State Regulations

Business Operations Restricted

Who: North Carolina employers and employees

When: March 27, 2020

What: Governor Roy Cooper issued an Executive Order 121 with key actions to combat the COVID-19 outbreak:

  • Stay at home or place of residence order.
  • All COVID-19 Essential Businesses and Operations are directed, to the maximum extent possible, to direct employees to work from home or telework.
  • Essential Retail Businesses may continue to operate.
  • Mass gatherings of more than 10 people in a single room or single space are prohibited and certain businesses should stop operations
  • Schools are closed through May 15, 2020.

The executive order references “Essential Businesses” as those defined by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency:

  • Health care and public health;
  • Law enforcement, public safety, emergency responders;
  • Food and agriculture;
  • Energy;
  • Water and wastewater;
  • Transportation and logistics, including automotive repair and automotive maintenance facilities;
  • Public works;
  • Other community-based government operations and essential functions;
  • Critical manufacturing like pharmaceuticals, medical supply chains, energy, communications, food and agriculture, chemical manufacturing;
  • Hazardous materials;
  • Financial Services;
  • Chemical; and
  • Defense industries.

“Essential Retail Businesses” are electronic retailers that sell or service cell phones, computers, tablets, and other communications technology; lawn and garden equipment retailers; book stores that sell educational material; beer, wine, and liquor stores’ retail functions of gas stations and convenience stores; retail located within healthcare facilities; and pet and feed stores.

To the extent possible, all COVID-19 Essential Businesses and Operations (including Essential Retail Business) shall maintain the Social Distancing Requirements, which is to maintain 6 feet distancing from other individuals, washing hands using soap and water for at least 20 seconds, regularly cleaning frequently touched surfaces, and facilitating online or remote access by customers if possible.

The limit on mass gatherings doesn’t apply to normal operations at airports, bus and train stations, medical facilities, libraries, shopping malls and centers. It also does not include any COVID-19 Essential Business or Operation as defined in the Executive Order.

Businesses that are not “Essential Businesses and Operations” are required to cease all activities and reduce to Minimum Basic Operations. Minimum Basic Operations include the minimum necessary activities to maintain the value of the business’s inventory, preserve the condition of the business’s physical plant and equipment, ensure security, process payroll and employee benefits, or related functions. Note that the businesses that were ordered closed by Executive Orders 118 and 120, the latter noted below, shall remain closed.

In Executive Order 120, Governor Roy Cooper ordered entertainment facilities without any retail or food services, as well as personal care businesses, to close on March 25, 2020. Examples of these entertainment facilities include bingo parlors, bowling alleys, indoor exercise facilitates, health clubs, pools, performance venues, movie theaters, skating rinks, spas, and gaming facilities. Examples of personal care businesses include barber shops, beauty salons, hair salons, nail salons, massage parlors, and tattoo parlors.


Review your current telework and leave policies and procedures to help accommodate employees’ childcare needs.

Determine if your business is impacted by these restrictions and if you need to plan a response to new regulations, consult with your legal counsel to ensure it’s compliant with the state rules.

Additional Resources

Executive Order No. 120

Executive Order No. 121

North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services COVID-19 Materials and Resources

COVID-19 Response in North Carolina

Unemployment Claims

Who: North Carolina employers and employees

When: March 18, 2020 until the State of Emergency ends

What: Governor Roy Cooper issued an Executive Order with two main actions: restrict the operations of restaurants and bars and expand the availability of unemployment benefits for workers affected by COVID-19. The latter is what will be discussed here.

Unemployment Expansion

Under the Order, the state Department of Commerce has the authority to ensure that workers who, as a result of COVID-19, are unemployed, have reduced hours, or are prevented from working due to a medical condition caused by COVID-19 are eligible for maximum unemployment benefits permitted by federal law.

Employers’ accounts won’t be charged for benefits paid to COVID-19 related claims.

Using quarantine and isolation orders as control methods, the Department can interpret flexibly or waive, as appropriate, the following:

  • The 1-week waiting period for benefits;
  • The ability to work and available to work requirements;
  • The actively seeking work requirements; and
  • The “lack of work” requirement

The Order delays all in-person contact usually required for unemployment benefits. It also allows applications and weekly certifications to be filed remotely, via phone or internet.


Consult with your legal counsel as you make decisions regarding employment.

As you make employment changes, provide support to your employees during this time and make yourself available to answer their questions and concerns.

Additional Resource

Executive Order 118

Oklahoma COVID-19 State Regulations

South Carolina COVID-19 State Regulations

Unemployment Benefits Expanded 6 Weeks

In July, Governor Henry McMaster issued Executive Order 20-25 to add six weeks to the Extended Benefits program for unemployment. This additional time is on top of the 10 weeks of extended benefits announced earlier in the month.

Extended Benefits are available only to those individuals that have used their 20 weeks of regular unemployment benefits and 13 weeks of Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program benefits. The Weekly Benefit Amount (WBA) is the same as the person received for standard unemployment insurance.

Additionally, Executive Order 2020-22 was issued to allow furloughed employees to still qualify for unemployment benefits if they receive “COVID-19 Support Payments” from their employers.

Additional Resources

Executive Order 20-25

South Carolina Department of Health

South Carolina Executive Orders

Executive Order 20-22 COVID-19 Support Payments by Employers

Employment and Workfore Federal Programs

South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce

Tennessee COVID-19 State Regulations

Liability Law Passes

Who: Tennessee businesses, healthcare providers, schools, nonprofits, and other individuals and entities

When: August 17, 2020. The law ends July 1, 2022, and applies to COVID-19 claims, except those filed before August 3, 2020.


Governor Bill Lee signed the COVID-19 Liability Shield Law to expand the protection of businesses from COVID-19-related lawsuits brought by employees, customers, and the public. Individuals who file a claim against a business must provide clear and convincing evidence that the organization exhibited gross negligence or willful misconduct that resulted in death, damage, injury, or loss.

Claimants must:

  • File a verified complaint against the organization that details the negligence or misconduct
  • Provide a certificate of good faith that the individual has consulted with a physician licensed in Tennessee or a bordering state,
  • A physician’s written statement of competency to state that the damage caused was a result of the business.

Additional Resource


Texas COVID-19 State Regulations

Texas-specific COVID-19 regulations can be found here >>

Virginia COVID-19 State Regulations

Forward Virginia Reopening Plan

Beginning May 15, 2020, Virginia will start Phase I of its 3-phased reopening plan, Forward Virginia. Each phase may last from 2 to 4 weeks. As part of the reopening plan, the current Stay-At-Home Order will be replaced with a Safer At Home Order.

Update 6/24/20: Governor Northam announced that Phase III will begin on July 1, 2020 and released Phase III guidelines for all business sectors to adhere to. On June 18, the Governor released an outline of what Phase III will look like in a press release.

Update 6/4/20: Virginia will begin Phase II on June 5, 2020, allowing businesses like fitness centers, farmers markets, retail, and more to reopen under industry-specific requirements for social distancing, hygiene, and sanitation. See Executive Order 3rd Amended No. 61 and Safer At Home: Phase Two Guidelines For All Business Sectors. See Executive Order 2nd Amended No. 61 for the expansion of activities at public beaches and racetracks.

Update 5/29/20: Executive Order No. 63 requires face masks for all employees of essential retail business employees. State residents are also required to wear face masks in public.

Update 5/20/20: The Forward Virginia Reopening Plan was updated to include additional information on what Phase I and Phase II look like for businesses.

Update 5/18/20: Under Executive Order EO-62, Northern Virginia counties won’t begin Phase I until May 28, 2020. Be sure to check your local orders to ensure your business is in compliance with all regulations.

Phase I will continue to require social distancing, teleworking, and limited gatherings of less than 10 people, and provide the recommendation that everyone in public wear face coverings. For businesses, Phase I will include developing and enforcing policies to keep employees and customers separate, allowing for handwashing breaks, and limited capacity for gyms, restaurants, and retail stores.

Update: See additional guidance in the Phase I Guidelines for All Business Sectors and Forward Virginia Guidelines.

Additional Resources

Executive Order 61

Forward Virginia Guidelines

Safer At Home: Phase I Guidelines for All Business Sectors

Amended Number 53 (2020) Executive Order

Forward Virginia

Virginia Department of Health

Virginia Executive Orders

COVID-19 Workplace Safety Standard: Emergency Temporary Standard

Who: Virginia employers

When: Effective July 27, 2020 with deadlines to comply at 30 days and 60 days.

What: The Virginia legislature adopted statewide COVID-19 workplace safety standards. The final language states that all businesses must ensure the following:

  • Workers practice social distancing.
  • Workers wear face coverings.
  • Employers provide access to hand washing or hand sanitizer.
  • High-contact surfaces are sanitized frequently.
  • All employees are notified within 24 hours if a co-worker tests positive for COVID-19.
  • Any employee who is “known or suspected” to be positive for COVID-19 cannot return to work for 10 days, or until that person receives 2 consecutive negative test results.
  • Employers complete a hazard assessment by job category for potential exposure to COVID-19.
  • Governor Northam also included in his announcement that there will be mandatory “infectious disease preparedness and response plans, record keeping, training, and hazard communications.”

The Virginia Occupational Safety and Health Program is enforcing the standards. Penalties could range from $13,000 to $130,000.

The emergency standards will expire in 6 months, or when Virginia’s State of Emergency ends, or if a permanent standard is implemented.

But there are other certain effective dates you need to know. You have:

  • 60 days from July 27, 2020, to respond with a written infectious disease preparedness and response plan, if required for your facility (September 25, 2020).
  • 30 days from July 27, 2020, to make sure all of your employees have been trained and you have written certification records for those employees (August 26, 2020).
  • To evaluate your workplace and conduct a hazard assessment by job description for the likelihood of contact with COVID-19 (due upon release of the final rule on July 27, 2020).


  • Conduct a Hazards Assessment. Review and audit your current practices, identify areas for improvement, and additional protocols you may need to implement.
  • Review the final language with your legal counsel to ensure you have a clear understanding of what is required of employers. 
  • Work and communicate with your employees about the importance of a safe work environment. Train them on the proper procedures you’ve put in place and any required training courses.

Additional Resources

§16VAC25-220, Emergency Final Standard

§16VAC25-220, Emergency Temporary Standard

Outreach, Education And Training For The COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard, 16VAC25-220

Business and Gathering Restrictions

Who: Virginia employers, employees, and residents

When: March 24, 2020 through April 23, 2020 (Updated to May 8, 2020, through an extension of Executive Order No. 53)


Governor Ralph Northam issued an Executive Order prohibiting gatherings of 10 or more individuals, closing K–12 schools for the remainder of the 2019–2020 school year, closing recreational and entertainment businesses, limiting patronage at certain retail establishments, and closing dining areas in food and beverage establishments. Delivery and take-out food and beverages from these restaurants are still available.

Childcare facilities may remain open within previously stated guidelines. Families that can keep their children at home are asked to do so.

Essential retail businesses may remain open during normal business hours. Those businesses are:

  • Grocery stores, pharmacies, and other retailers that sell food and beverage products or pharmacy products;
  • Medical, laboratory, and vision supply retailers;
  • Electronic retailers that sell or service cell phones, computers, and other communications technology;
  • Automotive parts, accessories, and tire retailers, automotive repair facilities;
  • Home improvement, hardware, building material, and building supply retailers;
  • Lawn and garden equipment retailers;
  • Beer, wine, and liquor stores;
  • Gas stations and convenience stores;
  • Retail located within healthcare facilities;
  • Banks and other financial institutions with retail functions;
  • Pet and feed stores;
  • Printing and office supply stores; and
  • Laundromats and dry cleaners.

Brick-and-mortar businesses not listed above may remain open if they are able to limit in-person patrons to no more than 10 at a time and maintain proper social distancing of six feet. If you cannot meet those requirements, you must close the business. If your business provides professional services, arrange for employees to work from home if at all possible. If telework is not possible, these businesses should maintain social distancing recommendations and enhanced sanitizing practices.

Other services that are considered essential and may remain open are:

  • Health care and medical services;
  • Essential services for low-income residents;
  • Media operations;
  • Law enforcement; and
  • Government operations.


  • Determine if your business is defined as essential and may remain open during normal business hours.
  • Arrange for employees to work from home whenever possible. If telework is not possible, create policies to the ensure safety of all employees reporting to work, including but not limited to social distancing recommendations, enhanced sanitization practices, and limiting physical touch with customers and other employees.
  • If your business is not essential, and it is not a recreational or entertainment business, develop a strategy for adhering to the requirement for no more than 10 patrons at a time in your establishment, while adhering to social distancing recommendations.
  • When you’ve developed a plan to respond to the new regulations, consult with your legal counsel to ensure it’s compliant with the state rules.
  • Build a communication strategy to implement these changes in your workforce.
  • Provide support to your employees during this time and make yourself available to answer their questions and concerns.
  • There may be potential discrepancies between state and local orders. If you believe there may be a discrepancy affecting you or your business, you should contact your local government and/or competent local counsel for further advice.

Additional Resources

Executive Order 53 (2020)

Frequently Asked Questions (re: Executive Order 53)

Coronavirus VOSH Hazard Alert

Virginia Department of Labor and Industry Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resources

West Virginia COVID-19 State Regulations

NEW 11/14/20: Face Covering Mandate

Effective November 14, 2020, everyone over the age of 9 must wear a face covering in confined indoor spaces with people outside their household, regardless of social distance.

Businesses must ensure that any customers or other members of the public that enter their space, comply with the face covering mandate. Adequate signage should be displayed to notify the public of this order.

Exemptions can be found on page 3 of the Order.

Additional Resources

Face Covering Toolkit

Statewide Indoor Face Covering Requirement

Executive Order No. 5020

Executive Order No. 77-20 (November 14, 2020)

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