Photo of roads leading into a city lined with skyscrapers.


As you may already know, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady, M.D. issued an Emergency Travel Order for people going in an out of the City of Chicago. The order was issued on July 2, 2020 and is effective from July 6, 2020 until further notice by the Commissioner. There are several issues that are particularly important for employers to be aware of now that this order has been passed, including when to give out paid sick leave and whether you can ban employees from traveling to certain areas.

Basics of the Order

The new travel order states that anyone who enters Chicago from a “High Incidence State” is subject to a mandatory self-quarantine period of 14 days, or the duration of the person’s presence in Chicago, whichever is shorter. High Incidence States are those that have a new COVID-19 case rate greater than 15 cases per 100,000 residents per day, over a 7-day rolling average.

As of July 13, 2020, the list of High Incidence States is limited to the following: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah. The list is set to be reviewed and amended as necessary every Tuesday, beginning July 14, 2020. In the event that new states are added to the list, the order will be effective with respect to those states three days after they are posted (the following Friday).

You can access the most up-to-date list of High Incidence States on the City of Chicago’s website.

Are There Any Exceptions to the Travel Order?

Personal travel for purposes of medical care and parental shared custody will be permitted under the new travel order. Additionally, there is an exception for essential workers. People who are considered essential workers are not subject to the mandatory self-quarantine requirement under the new travel order, but only if their travel is for work purposes under the following circumstances:

  1. if a non-resident of Chicago is traveling from a designated High Incidence State to Chicago for the primary purpose of carrying out their primary work in Chicago, and who needs to be physically present in Chicago in order to carry out that primary work, with identification issued by their employer, or
  2. if a resident of Chicago is returning from a designated High Incidence State, and was in the designated state for the primary purpose of carrying out their primary work in that state, and who needed to be physically present in that state in order to carry out that primary work, with identification issued by their employer.

Essential workers who are travelling for non-work purposes are still subject to the mandatory self-quarantine requirement under the new travel order.

However, essential workers should still avoid any non-essential interactions until the quarantine period has ended, limiting their presence in public spaces and making sure to only participate in work-related activities.

Who are Essential Workers?

It is imperative that employers and employees alike take a close look at the criteria for an essential worker. The order is specifically referencing people who work in critical infrastructure as designated by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. Government employees and officials at the local, state, and federal level who are traveling in their official capacities on government business, including military service, are also considered essential workers.

Does This Mean I Might Have to Pay Paid Sick Leave?

Yes. There is a distinct possibility that you may come across an employee who qualifies for paid sick leave due to this new order. As you may recall from our previous post, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) lists several qualifying-reasons for paid sick leave, one of which is when the employee is “subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19.” This new travel order is considered a local quarantine order related to COVID-19.

In the event you have a non-essential employee who traveled to a High Incidence State for any reason, or an essential employee who traveled to a High Incidence State for non-work-related reasons, they would be required to self-quarantine pursuant to the new travel order. If their quarantine makes it such that they cannot (tele)work, then it is very likely that they will qualify for two weeks of paid sick leave under the FFCRA.

What Steps Should I Be Taking?

As of now, day-to-day interstate commuters are not a particularly big issue, since it’s unlikely you would have employees traveling each day to Chicago from anywhere other than Indiana or Wisconsin, neither of which are currently on the list of High Incidence States. But in the event that you have out-of-state conferences or other such events planned, it’s advisable that you cease all employee business travel to and from High Incidence States as best you can, particularly if you are not an employer of essential workers.

In the event that you have essential employees who are traveling to and from High Incidence States for work-related purposes, it is important to remember that even though they may be exempt from the new travel order, the risk of a workplace outbreak of COVID-19 is still present. The last thing anyone wants is to have a case of COVID-19 in the workplace, so it is important to stay on top of all your routine cleaning procedures and safety protocols that you’ve implemented since this pandemic began.

Lastly, you should consider making some sort of identification material for essential workers who are traveling between Chicago and a High Incidence State. Remember, as stated above, essential workers are exempt from the new travel order but only if they’re engaged in work-related travel with identification provided by their employer.

Should you have any questions about the new travel order or any other COVID-19 related laws that may affect your business, or would like to schedule an initial consultation, please contact Waltz, Palmer & Dawson, LLC at (847) 253-8800 or contact us online.

Waltz, Palmer & Dawson, LLC is a full-service law firm with various areas of service to assist your business, including: Employment Law, Intellectual Property, Commercial Real Estate, and general Business Law services. Individual services include Estate Planning, Wills and Trusts, Probate, Guardianship, Divorce and Family Law.

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