Work today often requires travel. We commute to offices. We call on clients. We drive to work sites. We fly to meetings. We feel free to move about the country…or we did before COVID-19 disease.
Conflicting Pronouncements from Officials
Different layers of government often coordinate. But, when a public health crisis like this one flares in some areas before others, that coordination frays. Conflicting needs and priorities arise. We are seeing different restrictions on movement in different urban areas, municipalities, and states. On March 26, 2020, the Governor of Mississippi announced that local authorities in his state could not restrict movement. Similarly, Alabama’s Attorney General has highlighted what he considers constitutional and statutory concerns with local restrictions on movement to the extent they conflict with Alabama law.
Different Rules in Different Places
Given that some employers, including employers of “essential” workers, need their employees to be able to move through restricted areas, the uncertainties arising out of legal turf wars make things difficult for employers. This is true for employees traveling within a state, but even more complicated when employees travel in other states. Definitions of “essential” work differ. The nature of imposed restrictions lacks uniformity. Enforcement efforts and consequences for violations also range from mild to more severe.
Changing Patchwork of Restrictions
Even monitoring the new ordinances is difficult. The New York Times created a list of cities and states with movement restrictions. Click here to review it: : https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-stay-at-home-order.html. However, it was out of date before we turned a single calendar page.
How We Can Help
Employment lawyers can help employers determine which restrictions exist, which businesses and employees are essential, and how to comply with this. Currently, some large national employers are issuing employee “travel passes.” Arguably, it is not now clear the extent to which this is a necessary step. However, this will change too. While we do not believe that travel passes are necessary in Alabama at this time, we can help prepare them for employers who need them and answer questions about whether they are needed too.