We continue our efforts to keep you informed of key legal developments relating to COVID-19. Today, we focus on state and local issues, including the Governor’s announcement of the extension of the stay-at-home order. For our previous updates, please see HERE.
At today’s daily press conference, Governor Pritzker announced that he will be extending his stay-at-home order – currently set to expire on April 30th – until May 30th.
The Governor highlighted key points in the extension order to be issued next week, which will become effective on May 1st:
The Governor mentioned that his team is also talking with industry leaders and associations as it formulates the next step principles towards re-opening up the economy in a phased approach after May 30th. He emphasized that critical to the phased re-opening will be the state’s testing and contact tracing capabilities.
Workers’ Compensation. As we noted in our update last Tuesday (see HERE), the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission (“IWCC”) has amended its rules of evidence so that an exposure to the COVID-19 virus by a “First Responder” or “Front-Line Worker” – terms broadly defined to include those at essential businesses under the Illinois Stay-At-Home Order – is rebuttably presumed to have arisen out of and in the course of one’s employment.
Earlier this week, the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association and the Illinois Retail Merchants Association filed a lawsuit in Sangamon County Circuit Court in Springfield to block these rule changes. The plaintiffs argue that the rules are substantive law and that the Illinois legislature – not the IWCC – should be the one amending these rules. Today, Sangamon County Judge John M. Madonia issued an emergency temporary restraining order in the case.
Employers who are members of the two groups collectively employ millions of Illinoisans at factories and commercial outlets throughout the state, from grocery stores and pharmacies to hardware stores and gas stations.
Federal OSHA Legislation. Congressional Democrats are pursuing an increase in worker safety measures as the phased re-opening begins over the coming weeks and months. House Democrats have introduced a bill, The COVID-19 Every Worker Protection Act, that would direct the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) to set new rules for employers to keep workers safe. Such rules would require employers to adopt infectious disease protocols within a short period of time after the law’s enactment. The bill also provides whistleblower protections for those who complain about working conditions. A similar version has been introduced in the Senate; however, as of this writing, reports indicate that bipartisan support for the bill is lacking.
Commercial Real Estate. In the coming weeks, landlords will be preparing to re-open buildings in a phased manner as the stay-at-home order is lifted. We are encouraging our commercial tenant clients to reach out to their landlords and building managers so they can make plans for their space, including any reconfigurations required to allow for social distancing. Several companies have provided guidance to commercial landlords and tenants, including Cushman & Wakefield (see HERE) and CBRE (see HERE).
On Wednesday, the City Council met briefly in a virtual meeting that was live-streamed to the public. They will meet again this Friday, April 24th, at 1pm; the agenda can be found HERE. It includes a draft ordinance that authorizes various City departments to institute emergency measures in response to the COVID-19 crisis. See HERE. To participate in the public meeting, see the guidance posted on the City Clerk’s website HERE.
The Mayor’s office also introduced a draft ordinance – which is being referred to the Aviation Committee – providing the Commissioner of the Department of Aviation authority to negotiate various forms of relief to airport concessionaires at O’Hare and Midway airports.
In Tuesday’s update (see HERE), we reported that the Senate passed legislation providing additional funding for the SBA Paycheck Protection Program ($310 billion) and Economic Disaster Grant/Loan programs ($60 billion). The bill also included $100 billion for hospitals and testing. Today, the House – by nearly a unanimous vote – passed the bill and sent it to the President, who is expected to sign it shortly.
We will continue to send periodic updates on topics that may be helpful to your businesses. If you have a particular issue that you’d like us to address or if you’d like to be removed from the distribution list, please let us know.
Feel free to contact us with any questions.
Gery Chico, Jon Leach, and Alpita Shah