what can you do if your employer is violating shelter-in-place orders?

A reader writes:

I haven’t been able to figure out the answer to this question. What are employees supposed to do if their employer is violating state shelter-in-place rules?

Our state is under a shelter-in place advisory as of noon today, and all non-essential businesses have been ordered to close their facilities. However, a younger acquaintance is being instructed by their employer — a DEFINITELY non-essential clothing store — to come in later this week to package items for shipment to customers. What can they do?

“Take it to social media” is an option, but for now we’re hoping to find out what official state channels they can report this to or similar. Or should they escalate to corporate?

I am getting a ton of letters about this.

As far as I can figure out, there’s no official channel to report this, which is a huge hole in the system.

I asked Polly Mosendz, the reporter I mentioned yesterday, if she’d seen anything about this, and she said, “While there doesn’t seem to be a central repository for such complaints, employees should know that law enforcement agencies are tasked with making sure shelter-in-place and comparable orders are being followed.” In many jurisdictions, police officers are in charge of keeping non-essential businesses closed, so you could try calling your local police precinct to see if they’ll enforce the order.

You can also name and shame the company, which can be highly effective — Polly pointed out that a number of companies have changed course on their handling of the virus after their plans became publicized. You can share your story with her (her contact info is in yesterday’s post  and she can keep you anonymous), or contact local reporters in your area (who might be quite interested in local businesses violating the state order), or use social media.

Or you can try calling your state government — or even your members of Congress’s local district offices (they have staff dedicated to helping constituents with all sorts of problems that involve the government and may be able to help you figure out who to contact).

Or, yes, if you have a corporate headquarters that might not know what your team or local outpost is doing, contact them. (This also includes companies that have announced everyone can work from home but where individual managers aren’t allowing it — that’s a situation to escalate.)

There is a risk you could get in trouble with your company for some of these actions. So you’d want to choose your actions from the list above based on how much risk you’re comfortable with. (Do note, though, that pushing back against violations of the law can be legally protected activity — meaning they can’t retaliate against you, although of course it happens. Also, there are some state-level laws prohibiting employers from retaliating against an employee who objects to or refuses to participate in something that the employee reasonably believes violates a public policy mandate.)`

But these seem to be the basic choices right now if your employer is ordering you to work when it shouldn’t be. We need stronger options.

{ 340 comments… read them below }

  1. Mike C.*

    Yeah, call the police. This happened to GameStop and their business license was revoked in a few places.

    Don’t screw around with issues like this, folks need to act with haste. These measures only work when everyone acts and it’s still going to be 1-2 weeks before we all see the results.

    1. ProgrammerDude*

      There’s been a lot of articles about Gamestop and how badly they handled everything. From making employees acquire cleaning supplies (during the buying madness when none were to be had) to trying to declare themselves “essential operations”. There were reports that the people calling the police were the employees themselves.

      1. Vara*

        Yeah, if you look up the corporate phone call on YouTube that was leaked between GameStop execs and the people on the ground level it was terrible.

      2. Way to the Dawn*

        I worked there many years ago, and their response is not surprising in the least. They absolutely do not care about any of their store employees at all. They deserve this backlash for sure!

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          This is typical of chain retail. Recall my thesis that many companies divide employees into human beings and Meat Puppets. In any chain retail situation, the workers in the actual stores have little to no direct interaction with the home office. This makes it easy for the home office to regard them as Meat Puppets. A Meat Puppet has a problem with illness or child care or not wanting to help spread a disease? The problems of Meat Puppets don’t matter. Get above the store level to district managers, or however the company organizes this, and you eventually reach a level where the employee frequently visits the home office and interacts with the executives. At this point there is some shot at the executives thinking of child care and pandemic spread as real problems faced by real people. But not always. In the most dysfunctional corporations no one below the CEO, if then, counts as a human being.

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            Exactly. It’s a system of deliberate dehumanization, a “banality of evil” kind of thing.

        2. Certified Scorpion Trainer*

          former GameStop employee myself… same! and i feel not one ounce of sympathy for the backlash!

      3. AnonAnon*

        Check your State’s webpage. I went there and this is what they said for businesses in their COVID-19 FAQ page:
        To report a noncompliant business, contact your local law enforcement agency through their non-emergency number.

        My Attorney General’s page didn’t have anything that I could easily find.

        1. Chinook*

          In Canada, DH the cop is on standby (there have been surprisingly few calls overall – even domestic abuse reports from neighbors are down – because even the bad guys realize social isolationis good) to help enforce mandatory quarantines, so I fully believe that ensuring businesses stay close should be reprted to the police. As it is not emergency, you could call their office instead of 911.

          Full lock downs are rare in democracies and not done lightly. It means civil rights are being suspended, which gives the police the right to stop people from doing stuff which is normally legal. As DH put it while patrolling Ft. McMurray during the wild fire, it gave them the right to stop, question and wven apprehend any person on the stret who has no requirement to be there. I know this will make some Americans rightly nervous, but it is the only way to keep yahoos from endangering everyone else.

      4. Cat*

        It’s not funny but the idea that Game Stop is arguing it’s essential has a certain dark humor to it. Doesn’t everyone just download their product now?

        1. Liane*

          In addition to the leaking phone call, someone leaked their *printed out* instructions to employees on how to justify the Essential Business if cops came calling–it was that in addition to games GS, sells items that can be used for remote learning.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Except for hardware, pretty much; and if you’re a hard-core gamer, you likely already have that.

        3. Vara*

          You can download a majority of games now, but if you don’t have a lot of space on your system, you’ll probably want to go with physical games. Also, some like the security of having physical copies that you can still use in the future or sell.

          1. LunaLena*

            With the newer consoles, though, even if you have a physical copy you have to install it on the system in order to play it, so it takes up the same amount of space. And online stores keep a record of what you download, so if something gets deleted or corrupted or you need to delete to make space, you can download it again if needed. I do about half and half – download games if there’s a really good sale going on, but otherwise buy physical copies because I’m an older gamer and that’s just what I’m used to, but my point is that there really isn’t much incentive to buy physical games any more.

            Gamestop’s argument is especially silly because you can order games and hardware online and have it delivered, which is what I’ve been doing for years instead of going to Gamestop. For this reason, I bet Steam and Gamefly are conducting brisk business. Gamestop’s response, on the other hand, reminds me of the Simpsons episode where Sideshow Bob threatens to blow up the town with a nuclear bomb if they don’t get rid of television, and Krusty’s response is to think “no one else is broadcasting? I need to broadcast while there’s no competition! Think of the ratings!”

        4. Nanani*

          Even before that, they were mostly known for selling used copies of old games (that they paid the previous owner peanuts for) at ridiculous, nearly-new prices, and having more toys and merch than actual games.

      5. KoiFeeder*

        Yeah, my local gamestop (I hope it was just the local) sent me an email trying to get me to come into the store! 25% off! It was so messed up.

      6. PugLife*

        I gave in and finally bought a Switch… I was checking stock at places and GameStop looked like the only place that had it, but based on the way they’ve been handling it I said nope, no way, I’m not buying from them. I can be videogameless but I’m not supporting that business. I did my biweekly grocery shop at Target and they happened to have one that wasn’t listed on their site, so I got one in the end, but I will definitely not be shopping at GameStop ever again after all this shakes out. No way. Video games are great entertainment but they are definitely not essential.

        1. Certified Scorpion Trainer*

          yep i left gamestop in 2016 and i have not set foot in their stores (or given them my money) since. i even find it difficult to play videogames now, as it takes me back to the abusive relationship that it was to work for them. *shudders*

    2. MsMaryMary*

      In Ohio they’ve asked that people not call the police regarding Stay at Home violations, but call the state health department instead.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Yup – I was just coming to say this. Call the state health department – they’re more likely to respond.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I just straight up seal clapped reading that they had licenses revoked in some areas. I saw that reported a few days ago and was sending it to everyone with RAGE CAPS OF DOOM INCLUDED. I just cannot even.

    4. Chicagoan*

      When I needed information about the details of our stay-at-home order, I reached out to my Alderman (aka city council member), and his office was very responsive and helpful. If you live in a major city, that might be a first-line option for getting information like this. They should at least be able to point you in the right direction.

    5. Gazebo Slayer*

      Business licenses need to be revoked more often. If the penalty for labor, safety, environmental, etc. violations was potentially “you are shut down completely” companies would behave a lot better. Much of the capitalist class will only ever do the right thing because of fear.

    6. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      I thought of them when I read the letter. What a way to shoot yourself in the foot. (Just like Carmela, the fashion designer who destroyed her career by avoiding quarantine to attend a wedding… and infecting a great number of guests)

      1. KoiFeeder*

        Things like that remind me of that Agatha Christie story, about the woman who busted quarantine while she had the measles to meet a celebrity, infected the celebrity and caused her to miscarry and become sterile, and then had the gall to be surprised about being murdered for it.

        Murder probably wasn’t the world’s greatest solution there, but I can’t really say that I wouldn’t understand the urge.

        1. Granger Chase*

          I just watched this episode of Marple the other day! It definitely struck a different chord watching it again with everything going on right now.

        2. Rachel Greep*

          That’s based on a true story. A fan violated a German measles (rubella) quarantine to meet Gene Tierney in 1943, infecting her. Her daughter was born deaf, partially blind, and with severe mental disabilities.

          1. KoiFeeder*

            I’m not surprised that it’s based on a true story, but I’m not happy about it either.

        3. Quill*

          Oh, is that what the Mirror Crack’d is?

          (I’m stranded halfway through because there are too many people and not enough concentration.)

  2. glitter writer*

    I recommend searching for your state governor’s site and your state attorney general’s site and filing complaints that way. Many (many) states now have set up dedicated COVID-19 landing pages which will include instructions for alerting the AG about scams and dangerous non-compliance.

    1. Laywer Researching State Responses to Covid-19*

      This is the right response. These orders are coming predominantly from State governments, and that’s who should be contacted. A US congressman can’t really do much to enforce a state law under our federalist system, so the State is who should be contacted. Violations of these or

      1. Laywer Researching State Responses to Covid-19*

        (Ignore the last broken sentence fragment in my prior comment lol).

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It’s not that members of Congress can enforce state laws (they definitely can’t), but their constituent services staffers (which are often robust) can help people figure out who to contact, which currently is not easy to do.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Additionally, our federal government representatives and senators will be more likely to put in a federal level response if they hear what’s going on at the local level. Tell them they need to standardize so that we follow Germany’s curve and not Italy’s or Spain’s.

        2. Anonapots*

          Absolutely this. They track very closely what they get called about and the constituent liaison is very invested in making sure people have the info they need.

    2. Vera*

      I don’t who has followed Kentucky, but a friend turned me on to the Governor’s digital fireside chats. He is apparently personally calling and shaming people who violate this. For example, flea markets and churches.

      1. Nat*

        We love our Governor Beshear!!!! It is always great when KY can be seen as a beacon of light :)
        He also set up a hotline for this specific purpose – to call regarding any violation of social distancing, etc – not just related to businesses failing. We have had local businesses shamed on social media and in local (ie. small weekly( papers which hopefully has worked.
        That being said – your state’s leaders should be the ones to help out as has been stated before.

        1. Miss V*

          Fellow Kentuckian here and I whole heartedly agree! I honestly voted for him mostly because he was my party and I really wanted Bevin out but I’m so happy with how well he’s been handling everything.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I have friends there and THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for voting Bevin out.
            Next on the chopping block, Bitch McTurtle!

        2. Richard Hershberger*

          Here in Maryland, a deeply blue state, we have a Republican governor. For reasons I don’t grasp, he is widely popular. He generally governs as Republican as he can. Given that the Democrats have veto-proof majorities in both houses of the legislature, this isn’t all that Republican. At least not in practice. He can, when faced with necessary and popular legislation, piously veto it, getting credit from the Right for his bravery while dodging blame for the ill effects that a sustained veto would have entailed.

          It is kind of fascinating watching him respond to the pandemic. He clearly has concluded that he can’t govern as a Republican. He is doing pretty much the same things as Democratic governors in the region, and speaking very sensibly at his press conferences. I can’t decide whether this is a moral decision to minimize deaths in the state, or a political decision to burnish his credentials as a moderate. Either way, I cannot but help notice that in every other context he speaks and acts precisely as Republican as he can get away with. I assume once this crisis is over he will return to form.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        If you need a pick me up, watch the video where Italian mayors yell at their residents for violating shelter orders.

        1. Pearl116*

          My town’s mayor, here a few miles east of Boston, needs to yell loudly,publicly and at length at one of my roommates who told me he is not concerned about this virus and continues to come and go as he pleases. Bare hands when he comes in (one can find also sorts of gloves here and around), and no sign of cleaning knobs, faucets, etc. Keeping to himself most of the time doesn’t count. I share a bathroom with him (my other roommate has her own) and his section of the fridge needs constant tending.
          Anyway: this young man needs shaming (yes, I’m qualifying his youthfulness–he’s mid-twenties, as is his girlfriend.) He’s not even heeding our landlord’s request to stay put. I’m thinking he spends most of his time with his girlfriend…and they both have a lot of friends. Not Happy In Boston!

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*


      In California, if your County declared a shelter-in-place order before the Governor did (e.g., the Bay Area, Los Angeles, and others), report the violation to the County Public Health officer. The City of San Jose has also asked residents to report violations at their 311 number, the City of San Mateo has a 211 number, and the City and County of Los Angeles ask that you do the same.

      If you are in a County that did not shelter until Governor Newsom’s order, call the non-emergency number for your local police. In Alameda County, they’d like you to call the Sheriff. When in doubt, check your County Public Health office’s website for direction.

      And if you experience retaliation that affects your employment, the Labor Commissioner (Department of Labor) has an FAQ on how to make a complaint.

      1. Erika*

        My state (Ohio) has also instructed citizens to call the local health department for businesses violating the shelter in place order.

    4. danr*

      My state (NJ) set up a hotline to report this. It took less than an hour to crash the site. They now have a web link, but that may change too.

    5. Sarah*

      NJ has a specific number (and maybe email? Website?) to report businesses which are defying the order. First try to see if your state has one.

      Instead of contacting your US senator or rep’s office, I would first try contacting your state lawmakers or the town government and escalate from there.

  3. Person from the Resume*

    So confusing. My city and state used “stay at home” and then listed a huge number of exceptions which included work. IIRC it was just “work,” no mention of non-essential businesses.

    Most obviously, restaurants are allowed to offer takeout. Clearly not an essential service, but I feel for them trying to stay in business and keep paying at least a few of their workers. Houses are still being build in my neighborhood and the lawn service is showing up too. People were bitching on TV about traffic enforcement still working. (Good Lord, people, just park legally!!!)

    1. User 483*

      Food serving places are considered essential since not everyone has the ability to make meals and that also allows them to serve those on a lunch/supper break when working at a hospital (or other essential job).

      1. Can Man*

        I remember hearing that truckers are having a hard time making essential deliveries in some areas due to rest stop closures. No trucks means no masks, cleaning supplies, or food deliveries. Some businesses are indirectly essential, though they should still take precautions.

        1. Anna*

          Hospital cafeterias are closed.
          Grocery stores are reducing their hours.
          People in quarantine are not allowed to go to the grocery store.
          All with important reason, yes. But as such, it is prime time for Skip the Dishes and Uber eats; definitely essential services now in my neck of the woods.

    2. Cee Cee Dee*

      If you force take out restaurants to close, you are cutting off a food source and forcing people to go to the grocery store, putting many people in one place and stressing the grocery stores. It is also a prime location for promoting the spread. The take out options is essential in an indirect capacity. And there are people who really can’t cook…

      1. Count Boochie Flagrante*

        This. Plus, people who can afford it buying takeout both helps keep the economy moving a little bit, and it eases the burden that purchase restrictions in grocery stores place on households.

      2. lemon*

        I think also some homeless people / people who don’t access to kitchens also rely on lower-cost, take-out / fast-food options.

      3. Nanani*

        And before anyone decides to say this is a great time to learn to cook – remember disabilities exist.
        Also, some people don’t have kitchen equipment or the space for it.
        And some people working essential jobs literally do not have the time.

      4. Chinook*

        Plus healthcare workers on long shifts – they deserve to not have to cook.

        And truckers who have no place to cook while moving goods. They can’t even go through the drive-thru and need to walk in to order or pick up.

      5. Triumphant Fox*

        Also people who suddenly have a houseful to feed all day every day. Cooking all. the. time. while still working full time and trying to wrangle a toddler is exhausting. Takeout is such a welcome respite and has helped us extend time between grocery trips.

    3. ArtK*

      Food service is absolutely essential! As others have pointed out, not everyone can cook at home and going to the grocery store has its own issues. The restaurants in my area are offering a combination of online ordering with delivery or curbside pickup.

      Although we can cook at home, we’ve taken advantage of the takeout offered. Not only does it help us extend our supplies and avoid grocery store trips, it also supports small businesses who are very much at risk during this time.

      1. Gumby*

        I got takeout for lunch yesterday (so so bored of eating the same 2 meals all the time but need to finish the leftovers before I get new food (I really need to learn to cook for just me and not the 7-person family I grew up in…)) and was pleasantly surprised at the precautions the employees were taking. Not a single thing that they handed me was touched by them unless they were wearing gloves. Or used a napkin – for my cup/straw/lid – since it was right after they touched the cash register.

        1. Quill*

          My mom taught me to cook in batches of “serves 6-8” because that means leftovers tomorrow.

          Now, as a household of one, I’m rather bored.

    4. AKchic*

      In my state, a certain subset of people are upset that liquor and cannabis stores are still open as “essential”, but the gun stores (strictly gun only, not sporting good) aren’t.

      Sometimes, there just is no real logic or reasoning with people. They want what *they* want, regardless of anything else.

      1. CheckingIn*

        Here in MD right now all cannabis is medical only, not recreational. So the shops are allowed to be open because they’re considered a pharmacy.

        1. Kelly L.*

          And with liquor, I think part of it is not wanting the hospitals overwhelmed with people in alcohol withdrawal, and part of it might be that liquor stores often also sell food. In food desert areas, they might be one of the only places selling food.

          1. Glitsy Gus*

            In my area any kind of food store can stay open, and since liquor stores usually sell snacks and mixers as well, they qualify as a food store. It’s possible in states that require liquor to be sold in a separate, state-run store that may end up being different.

          2. Chinook*

            Dh says he is happy to see the run on liquor stores. He says, as a cop, nothing is worse than dealing with a dry drunk.

          3. Richard Hershberger*

            I’m not much of a drinker, but I popped into a liquor store a few days back. I splurged on a bottle of ten year old Laphroaig. The owner told me they are doing an unusually brisk business.

      2. Sydney Bristow*

        A doctor I know pointed out to me that closing all liquor stores could cause a lot of alcoholics to need medical care from severe withdrawal symptoms, which could be extra difficult right now. I hadn’t considered that before.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          This. There are people out there that will die of alcohol detox if you take their supply away.

          It will also lead to people drinking mouthwash and doing awful things to get their bodies what it craves.

          We learned from prohibition that it’s bad stuff and to not ef with someone’s liquor supply as well.

          1. probably actually a hobbit*

            Delirium Tremens (alcohol withdrawal) can be very scary, and can absolutely kill.

        2. JSPA*

          I know that’s not what the law envisions as essential, but…same for other addictions. I hope that the police turn a blind eye, in states where there’s a complete lockdown, to people quietly looking to get a fix, rather than running them through stations, courts and jails, where the virus is a large and growing problem. Sure, they may not be distancing perfectly (and if bleach and medical supplies are harder to get, the likelihood of clean needles goes down). But…there’s no upside to grabbing a bunch of people who might have disease exposures of various sorts, and throwing them all together.

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            Especially since that’s a population with a high rate of HIV, and HIV is one of the coronavirus risk factors.

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      In small towns, they were talking about elderly people going hungry because their main source of food was restaurants. So that’s another reason they’re deemed essential.

      They took away parking enforcement up here, so that’s interesting that they’re not doing that everywhere…they know people aren’t leaving so they aren’t ticketing parked cars unless it’s something thats always illegal but not like time enforced.

      1. JustaTech*

        Same here, except restaurants are able to ask the city to make the spots right outside “load only” zones for people doing pick-up.

        1. not really a lurker anymore*

          I’m seeing homemade signs in front of restaurants labeled “pickup/takeout only”

          And a reminder – if you’re trying to help keep a store/restaurant in business right now – see if you can buy gift cards.

    6. MysteryFan*

      Seconding reading your particular State’s proclamation closely. for instance, my state is under a lockdown, and this is under a description of “essential businesses” [Businesses that store, ship or deliver groceries, food, goods or services directly to residences or retailers.]

      What does that mean? Perhaps a retail clothing store who was shipping goods to an individual consumer might NOT be violating the law.

    7. lemon*

      It’s very confusing. My city/state is on a shelter-in-place order. My city lists which businesses are considered essential and can remain open– “professional services” is one of them, which seems incredibly broad and vague. I’m sure that was meant to cover things like… accounting and legal services. But should that cover the graphic-design department of an employee-assistance program? Probably not, though my friend’s workplace is interpreting it that way and still requiring all employees to come into the office.

    8. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Food service/restaurants are an essential business. In many states, all local schools have closed, which deprives low-income children of access to the free and subsidized meal programs. That program is often their only source of food security. Some states have attempted to bridge that gap by working with restaurants that can serve as distribution centers for those meals and for the USDA’s food distribution programs.

      It’s amazing how many services really are essential, which we often don’t realize until a crisis hits.

    9. [insert witty user name here]*

      In addition to other great points made above (and not trying to pile on, but just to keep stuff all in one thread), food service places (restaurants) also often have different food supply chains than grocery stores, so by keeping those open (assuming they are practicing good hygiene and enforcing social distancing standards), it keeps more avenues of food supply open and available.

      1. Bagpuss*

        This makes a lot of sense. My local pub (in the UK) is closed because all bars and restaurants are, but they are now offering vegetable boxes (and stuff like eggs and milk) and operating as an off licence (liquor store)
        I haven’t bought anything because I don’t yet need to buy food so there’s no reason for me to go out, but when supplies get short I will – it looks like its a really good quality, plus you can order ahead by phone and just pick up a box, so minimal contact (and they are a great pub, so if it helps them keep going I’m all for it.

    10. semperfiona*

      Just park legally is easier said than done. For example, we can get a ticket for being parked outside our own house on street cleaning day. But where else can we park, when everyone in the neighborhood is at home and there are no garages? In normal circumstances, most residents are at work during street cleaning time, and those who aren’t (including me) can move our cars across the street or whatever. But not when everyone else is home.

  4. DoubleBigLaw*

    In New York, you can submit a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office, preferably by e-mail at Labor.Bureau@ag.ny.gov, or by phone at (212) 416-8700, if you believe your employer is doing any of the following:
    Requiring employees to come to work even if the employer is not an essential business;
    Requiring employees to come to work even if they are performing business operations that are not necessary to support essential services; or
    Not permitting employees to telecommute or work from home whose job responsibilities would permit them to do so.

    1. QED*

      S/O to the NYS AG! I’ve seen their press releases, and they are following up on these issues, so definitely do report!

  5. Rebecca*

    PA resident, our state police are tasked with enforcement. I’d report it to local or state police, non-emergency communications number, and let them sort it out.

  6. Sharon*

    Since shelter in place and stay at home orders are delivered from the local or state level, it may also be helpful to contact your city commission (or whatever form of local government is in place) or your representative in your state’s capital.

  7. JMHO*

    Be careful, though. Shelter in place does allow for some business operations necessary to keep the business going, such as billing/payroll. Shipping might fall under that. So, just because a worker is working at a place that is closed, doesn’t mean that the individual person doesn’t need to be there. You would want to check your own state guidelines for clarification.

    1. Orange You Glad*

      This is what I came to add. Any customer-facing facilities should be closed but at the same time we are encouraging online ordering/delivery activities to keep businesses going. It depends on on the specific state/city order. Obviously if this employee doesn’t want to take the risk commuting to work, they should be able to stay home but I know not all employers are being that forgiving.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        Yep, I know some hourly workers that would be happy to go into a closed store and work alone loading packages so they can keep getting a paycheck. I’m sure some managers think they are doing their employees a favor by giving them some scheduled hours. It comes down to the individual, some staff want to stay home and some want to keep earning money (in a safe & protected environment).

        1. Elizabeth West*

          This is what the eyewear store did (national chain). I was supposed to come pick up contact lenses on Monday — they were going to poke them out the door at me — but then they called and said nope, they’ll ship them to my house. They already did that with my glasses, which I got yesterday. (Yesssss I can see, y’all! \0/)

          It would have sucked extremely not to have them working, even if the business was closed to onsite patrons, since the county went on lockdown Tuesday. Our stay-at-home is expected to last through April 22. I desperately needed my eyewear enough to dip into what little money I have to get it, and I am hardly the only one.

          And of course, the delivery workers, who can just drop off without requiring a signature.

      2. Liane*

        Late Breaking News!!! Grocery stores are “customer-facing facilities” &, by the way, even self check outs need people to work them–the machines can’t scan your license to okay age-restricted items (which includes some over the counter meds), the machines can’t fix pricing errors, the cash doesn’t magically refill itself, etc. Also grocery stores aren’t owned & operated by Hogwarts or Starfleet Academy–they can’t use magic or the transporter room to get merchandise & food on the shelves.

      3. I'mBackAfterALongBreak*

        Yes, distribution is normally considered essential in many of the orders so fulfilling online orders could very easily fall under this.

    2. ThatGirl*

      Yeah, a lot of states allow exceptions for “order fulfillment” which is how a few of our small retail stores are trying to stay open. I mean, I don’t think clothing retail is essential either, but that may be the loophole they’re using.

      1. NLMC*

        Our shelter in place orders are coming at a county level not state at the moment. I know a few of the counties have stated shipping is okay as long as each employee is able to stay 6 feet away from other people at all times.

      2. blackcat*

        As someone whose small child literally grew half an inch overnight, I am glad clothing retail is still shipping. All of the second hand stores are (rightfully) shut. Only way to get stuff is to have it shipped, basically.

        1. NLMC*

          Exactly. My kids have outgrown their shoes overnight. Online shopping isn’t always just for expanding your already full closet.

    3. JustaTech*

      In the Seattle paper today there was a long article about the essential vs non-essential businesses. Nordstrom was on that was listed as being allowed to have their shipping warehouse open, even though the retail stores are all closed (and the retail employees are being asked to do shipping).

      Weed shops, yes; liquor stores, only if they sell food; high-end clothing rental, no (and gosh they were mad about that).

      1. Just Another Techie*

        In MA cannabis shops may only sell to customers with a medical card. Recreational selling is banned for the time being.

      2. Two Dog Night*

        ….do they think people are going to be renting high-end clothes if they can’t leave the house? I’m not getting that one. Businesses really can have blinders sometimes.

        1. Kelly L.*

          Yeah, rental makes no sense. I can see the point in buying, because there are sales on and you can save it to wear later, but renting?

            1. Blarg*

              Almost seems like an opportunity a for law enforcement sting: track the rental orders and show up …”where were you heading while wearing this couture evening gown, ma’am? The grocery store in Manolos? Do you work in a hospital that mandates Swarovski crystals as a talisman against Covid?”

              (Obviously I’m kidding. But entertaining to think about).

          1. JustaTech*

            The owner claimed that she was essentially running a “clothing cleaning” business because she cleaned the clothes before sending them out to other people.

            I’d never heard of the company before, but wow did the owner sound completely out of touch.

            Seriously, if coffee shops (which are allowed to be open for take-out) are closing for employee and customer safety, how the heck do you justify silk blouses?

      3. LizardOfOdds*

        Yep, this is what’s happening with my husband’s company in the Seattle area. They have a direct shipping business and sell coffee, so are declaring themselves “essential.” Businesses are interpreting the law in ways that are favorable to them, not to the general public trying to contain a pandemic. Effectively, not much is changing for a lot of people.

        1. Ms Mash*

          Coffee is an essential product as it is America’s favorite drug of choice.

          We just ordered 800 Nespreso capsules (9 month supply) that will hopefully that will get us through the crisis.

        2. Arts Akimbo*

          Coffee is absolutely essential to the health, well-being, and smooth running of my household. I’m not kidding.

    4. MissDisplaced*

      Yes, shipping/logistics, takeout, and some other things like IT, Security, etc. are considered ‘essential’ or may have exemptions.

      We’ve all been on WFH at my work. Last week, the headquarters office was “open” during 9-4 if you had an URGENT need to come in for something (like a computer or secure files). It was staffed with a skeleton staff of a Site Ops Manager, IT, Shipping, Security and a Maintenance person who generally know they’d have to be there during this type of situation (let’s thank the IT and Ops people for this). I haven’t been there, so it’s possible they’ve shut most of that down now, leaving only the ‘back room’ areas open. I’m not sure if that will continue indefinitely though.

      1. Sally*

        I’m in IT, but my entire office has been closed for ~3 weeks (I can’t remember how long any more). I stopped by the office a couple of weeks ago to pick up equipment, and I was going to go back for a monitor, but the cleaning company we had hired for mid-March (when we thought we’d be back in the office) was so busy, they couldn’t change our appointment. So now that the office has been thoroughly cleaned, they don’t want anyone in there. Oh well, I’ll make do without the monitor.

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Well I mean even if you don’t know they’re essential vs non essential, reporting a business who is in compliance isn’t going to do that much harm. Yeah it uses resources but really, it’s often better safe than sorry in many cases. Worse case you get the police knocking to say “Yo, what do you even do here?” you tell them and they go “oh cool story bro, sounds legit.” and they move on.

      It is important to remember of course but really, if in doubt that they’re essential, you can still report them. They aren’t going to get Swatted, it’s not that kind of system where theyre showing up ready to take people into custody.

  8. Lynca*

    Make sure to read the shelter in place orders to make sure you’re not listed as an “essential” business. My county issued one but it has a broad definition of what it considers “essential businesses.” Other counties are more stringent and that’s a problem in my state currently. There is no state level shelter in place definition. It’s up to local governments to sort that out for themselves. Not all of them do a good job of it.

    The one for my county literally has no teeth. So depending on whether you have a location taking this seriously can have a big effect on your ability to report it.

    1. Can Man*

      Thank you for your use of “literally,” as it brought to mind the image of a stack of paper with shelter in place orders and teeth. It made me chuckle at a time we could all use it.

  9. ASW*

    I would make sure they are really violating the order in your state or city first. It sounds like the clothing store needs employees to ship orders to customers and that they are not actually open to the public. Closing stores to in-person traffic is not the same as preventing online orders which still need to be shipped out.

    1. EPLawyer*

      but it might violate the no gathering rule. Our list of essential businesses for the state is so long as to be practically useless (really why does non-emergency construction need to be going on right now?). But it still says the businesses have to abide by no large gatherings. So if you have 10 people in the building working on shipping, and you can’t space them 6 feet apart, you might be violating that Order.

      The point of the shelter in place is to keep people HOME so they aren’t out and about traveling and spreading the disease. If people are still allowed to come in and ship stuff, it violates the whole point.

      1. Cobol*

        Also, shelter in place is different than the previous guidelines. If you aren’t essential, you aren’t allowed to operate if it means bringing people in to a physical location

      2. Count Boochie Flagrante*

        Non-emergency construction that’s already been started needs to continue basically because leaving half-built structures in place can have pretty significant knock-on issues. Not that it’s the right choice (I have no stance on that) but there is logic to it. Leaving stuff exposed to the elements for an extended period that’s supposed to be covered up pretty quick will create structural problems down the line.

        OTOH, starting new construction now is ridiculous.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          + 1 to your first point

          Additionally, as a former claims adjuster, builders risk policies provide some coverage for theft from dwellings and/or buildings under construction, but some policies have guidelines about what is considered under construction and how much of the structure has to be completed before it’s covered. So construction companies really do need to finish work that was already started as soon as possible.

        2. Gazebo Slayer*

          Yeah, there were a lot of buildings left unfinished during the recession in Boston… which led to a huge rat problem.

    2. Mazzy*

      I was thinking if there are cases like this, even though I think this question is supposed to be more generally what does one do. I can drive to my office and go into it and contact zero people, but I don’t. I think the stay in place orders forbid people like me going to go work though, even though I won’t come in contact with anyone, because they need a one size fits all law

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        And because even with no one on ege road, accidents happen….a tire blows or a deer jumps into the road, and then a driver needs emergency response exposing everyone.

    3. Katharine*

      This is how y state is right now. Non-essential businesses have to close to the public but can stay open if they do that and have enough room for employees to use the 6ft social distancing criteria. Shipping in a closed store would likely be okay.

  10. bennie*

    honestly, call the cops on their behalf (if they’re ok with it). many states have mentioned that they will not hesitate to draft law enforcement to enforce shelter in place orders.

  11. alacrity*

    In Michigan, the attorney general has asked local law enforcement to enforce the order (link to follow).

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      How are the police departments responding though?

      I ask this because I’m from an area notorious for counties that go “LOL OK sure” when it comes to what they’re told to enforce.

      They don’t really respond to property crimes here or theft charges unless it’s egregious or a cop sees it personally. So I can see them dragging ass to enforce this while they’re trying to deal with violent crimes.

      1. Anon for this*

        My son is a cop in a city near Seattle. He works at night, so it’s mostly domestic violence calls combined with shoplifting and other similar crimes. Since bars and restaurants are all closed, they are getting almost zero calls. He did say that the “stay home” rule is going to be tough to enforce and he can’t see arresting anyone for it unless they are running around in a public place screaming, “I have COVID!!!”. Mostly I think it’s just so that cops can tell people to leave, like all the idiots who were hanging out on the beach in West Seattle this past weekend, acting like it was a normal spring weekend.

    2. Ms Mash*

      In California, ploice are responding to businesses that are nonessential that are ignoring the shelter in place order.

      What I find funny about this is that the police would no longer respond to any nonviolent crime calls such as Burglary or theft.

      1. just an office worker*

        This isn’t true for the entire state of California. Some agencies are still responding to non-violent crimes. My local force is still responding to their normal calls for service and all they are doing as far as the shelter in place order is educating the violators. And the highway patrol is not enforcing the shelter-in-place order either, they aren’t ticketing people who are out & violating the order contrary to the rumours.

  12. katelyn*

    In many cities in Canada you can call 311 and report the business. Vancouver is sending bylaw officers out to those businesses and I think Toronto is doing the same. Vancouver is giving a warning, but after that will be fining the business on a daily basis and has said they’ll follow up with legal injunctions and collections.

  13. Berry*

    This happened to my friend on Monday, the main branch of her company (a finance office, all work doable from home) refused to let their employees work from home. She called the Department of Health and they told her to call the police, which she did.

  14. Daisy-dog*

    I worked for a store that had a similar system of ship-from-store. When we had an insane ice storm in DFW (December 2013), our store manager was the one who bit the bullet and drove into the store to complete it. However we were not in a shelter-in-place order, but it definitely shouldn’t be regular employees who are given the task.

    Has the employee tried explaining that she doesn’t feel comfortable violating shelter-in-place? And highlighting the requirements of the area? If it’s clear that they are intentionally violating the rule, then take it to corporate for sure. If it is a corporate business with stores all over, then there is a district manager who should be pissed that the store manager would require that. Try contacting her.

    1. Kelsey*

      In my case, I’d be willing to bet that the directive is coming from the corporate level. My manager has no initiative.

  15. kittymommy*

    This is just based on my experience in Florida, check the state order to see if it assigns oversight to a particular agency. Most of the EO’s coming from DeSantis is listing our Department of Business and Professional Regulation agency as the one enforcing the rules, however we do not have a state-wide shelter in place order.

  16. CatCat*

    I wish it were clear if you are eligible for unemployment benefits if you quit your job because your employer insists you come in in defiance of shelter-in-place orders. Maybe that’s something Polly could look into.

    1. noahwynn*

      Pretty sure it is constructive dismissal if you’re forced to quit because your employer is requiring you to break the law to continue your employment. I’m sure it is somewhat state-dependent, but you should be eligible for unemployment in that case.

    2. rear mech*

      I just filed in Texas… They don’t answer this question but do specifically state that you don’t get unemployment if you’re fired for self-quarantining when your employer tells you that you must come in and work.

  17. Brett*

    I have to disagree with Polly here.

    In many jurisdictions, the police have been explicitly ordered not to enforce shelter in place. Shelter in place is under the jurisdiction of the health department, and they are the ones who enforce the order. You would need to call the health department, and they would send an inspector to the business to enforce the order. They _might_ bring along a sheriff in some jurisdictions, but the health department, not the police department is the first line in enforcing shelter in place.

    Police are in charge of securing closed businesses, which is where some of the confusion might come from. If someone is inside a closed business, they are the ones to be contacted in case someone is looting the business. But if that person ends up being a business owner or employer, the police are not going to deal with it.

    1. Brett*

      (Also, consider that calling the police on a minority owned or minority staffed business or a in majority-minority is not something to be taken lightly. Another reason to start with the health department instead.)

      1. une autre Cassandra*

        I was coming here to say this. Don’t call the police unless it’s your only option. :(

      2. Brett*

        To add a different take on this:

        People often time have had traumatic encounters with police or associate police with trauma even if they have never had a traumatic encounter with them. This is especially true for minorities. This is one reason police should not be utilized when they do not need to be.

        But another reason, on the police side, police officers have a ton of negative interactions with minorities already, interactions that stem from duties assigned to those officers. Having them enforce shelter-in-place restrictions (effectively enforcing 24/7 curfews) tacks on yet another negative interaction to further break down the relationship between them and the public. Even if an officer is completely professional and courteous and avoids all traumatic triggers, it is still that officer and police department who stopped someone from working and made them go broke; not the long chain of other circumstances that led to that moment. And the person who loses their job as a result of shelter in place will associate the police with that trauma.

    2. Erika*

      This 100%. In Ohio, they’ve asked that we please stop calling the police departments to report violations or ask questions about the shelter in place order. The police have been overwhelmed with calls. Anyone with concerns has been directed to call the local health department.

  18. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

    In addition to your Congressmember, your state legislators might be able to help, with the same sort of constituent service. Mine are sending out Covid-19 updates, and I think would be delighted to get involved if you lived in this district.

  19. Moxie*

    I am an essential employee (scientist doing COVID-19 related research). My employer offered to provide us formal letters to show law enforcement in case we are stored on the roads. The letter explains why I am essential, per the state order. I’d ask the manager for such a letter and she what she says.

    1. (Former) HR Expat*

      My business is also considered essential- we’re in the security business. All of our people in the field have letters stating that they have a reason to be out. Even as “admin services support,” I have a letter if I need to go into the field for some reason, although the expectation is that I work from home because I’m able.

      1. Professional Merchandiser*

        We are classified Retail Essential.The company provided us a letter to show. Unless the stores decide to refuse entry to us we are expected to keep working. I don’t really interact with anyone in the course of my day and obviously keep my distance and wash hands often, so I feel relatively safe.

      2. D'Arcy*

        That’s interesting; I’m working security as well, and my company isn’t doing letters (a lot of employees asked for them), stating that our security credentials should be sufficient.

      1. KimmyBear*

        I get why not, but I wish they would. I had to go to the dentist yesterday (not optional) and because traffic is light, some people decided it was ok to drive 30+ miles per hour over the speed limit.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Yup. My house is on a main road, and traffic is sometimes dangerously faster than normal. (One road closure so far.)

        2. Gumby*

          Yeah, there are about 5 cars on the freeway at any given time and two managed to get in a crash anyway which I passed, slowly, going into the office yesterday (yes, essential business though we are encouraged to WFH if possible and, if not, to shift work schedules or whatever so no 2 people are in the same room at the same time). Turns out you can cause a back up on the freeway even with reduced traffic if you take it from 4 lanes to 1.

      2. Amy Sly*

        “And I will have a pick-up truck … maybe even a recreational vehicle. And drive from state to state. Do they let you do that?”
        “I suppose.”
        “No papers?”
        “No papers. State to state.”

        Those were the days …

          1. Amy Sly*

            It was one of my favorite movies as a kid. (My dad was a submariner, though on missile boats, not fast attack ones like the Dallas.) I remember the first time watching it as an eight or nine year old and at that scene my parents patiently explaining that in the Soviet Union, we would have had to get the state’s permission to prove it to visit our grandparents or cousins. That being in America meant we didn’t have to have things like travel papers, and freedoms like that were why Ramius and Vasily and the other officers were willing to risk their lives to come to America.

            And yesterday, I got my travel papers from my new boss proving to the state and county police that I have the right to go to my job. WTF doesn’t even being to describe this feeling.

    2. Diahann Carroll*

      My mom’s company, a life insurance company in Ohio, did the same thing before her manager finally wised up and just told her to work from home indefinitely.

    3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      My husband and his coworkers got formal letters describing them as critical employees (they’re in warehouse/shipping). One of his coworkers, they handed the guy his letter and he goes “So, y’all just gave me a letter that says I’m critical to our operation. I’m saving this for my next performance review.”

    4. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      My employer just sent a massive email with the steps to follow if someone needs such paperwork.

  20. MK*

    This is beside the point, but what is the rush to ship clothes right now? People need to look stylish when they catch their reflection on the mirrors around their home?

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      Lol, exactly. I could see if it was a specialty food store that had products that aren’t typically found in grocery stores, but fast fashion is not essential right now.

    2. spc*

      If it’s a small business with a brick-and-mortar storefront that now can’t get any revenue from walk-in customers, filling online orders may be the only way they limp along, retain employees, and avoid going under.

      Short version: The rush isn’t for the customer, it’s for the small business and everyone who works for it (if it is indeed a small business).

      1. lost academic*

        I think it’s the willful interpretation by business owners that “essential” means “It’s essential that I be able to operate for the health of my business and bottom line” when essential is really “essential for people overall to SURVIVE”

        Clothing stores, Gamestop – you’re not a freaking hospital, dial it back. (I will never shop at a Gamestop again now)

        1. I'mBackAfterALongBreak*

          I completely understand the issue with Gamestop but I also think it is important that we try to keep some services open to provide jobs to people IF we can do so safely. I live in the Seattle area where so many people are one missed paycheck away from homelessness. I also work for a company that is considered essential. We are having as many people work from home as possible. But not everyone can. So we are putting in processes to help keep those that work in manufacturing safe. Checking employee temperatures, adjusting start and end times to avoid multiple people coming and going at the same time, spreading work stations out, frequent sanitation of equipment, etc. I know that the employees are thankful for being able to continue to work because no work equals no paycheck.

      2. Glitsy Gus*

        This. A lot of the small stores around me are still taking online orders because, if they don’t, they will end up out of business before the shelter-in-place is lifted. Landlords are still demanding rent, and everything is so expensive here, the chance of a newish small business having a savings pot that will cover several months’ rent with zero revenue is basically nil.

        They should not be requiring employees to come in if they are uncomfortable, but there is a reason for small companies to do what they can to stay afloat. Plus, folks stuck at home are doing more online shopping. With Amazon still offering two-day shipping, most folks don’t have a lot of patience for companies who are actually trying to look out for their employees’ well being by delaying shipments.

          1. spc*

            That’s an additional reason why I am shopping at local small businesses as much as I can. I am lucky enough to live near quite a few. I desperately want them to stay and the employees to keep their jobs, pay their rent, support their kids.

            Many local small businesses here are offering curbside pickup or delivery, same day. There are signs outside begging us to take advantage of it, with details of their safety measures, and they break my heart.

            I buy from them whenever I can, and yes, it does require that an employee be in the shop to pack up the materials. If they can pack up online orders in between, all the better.

            No one should have to do anything they feel unsafe. But if a small business has taken responsible steps and employees feel they have a safe context in which to work to preserve their livelihood, I will help them.

      3. not that kind of Doctor*

        This is us – not clothing but not essential either. Our stores are closed and all office employees working from home. Our factory & warehouse are still functioning: without them, the business dies and all of us are on unemployment.

        – our state allows activity essential to the survival of the business as long as distancing & sanitizing rules are observed, which they are in our case
        – no one is required to come in. Some people have kids at home, vulnerable family members, or are just uncomfortable, and they are able to stay home without losing their jobs. Apparently enough are willing to come in to keep operations operating, and not so many that physical distancing is difficult.

    3. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

      I made weekend plans to travel into the living room. Would have liked a new travel outfit for that trip.

    4. Niktike*

      My toddler hit a growth spurt and outgrew everything last weekend, so we needed to buy some clothes on Amazon, since we obviously weren’t going to any clothing retailers.

      1. Turquoisecow*

        Related: I’m pregnant and approaching the point where I’m going to need maternity pants. That should be fun!

        1. AnotherSarah*

          Same! Our Target is offering hours for vulnerable people (65+, pregnant people, etc.), and I think I’ll use those.

    5. JJ*

      A friend of mine works at the Gap and says online orders are way, way up, which the retail workers fulfill, and thus is why mega-giant GapBananaNavy corp delayed letting them go home.

      I think it’s critical that people stop ordering random, nonessential crap online so retail, warehouse and delivery workers can stay home too.

    6. I'm just here for the cats*

      I feel the same way about my mom’s job. She’s tech support for a weTher and clock company. They are still open, but working on getting access for home. They are considered essential because they have a warehouse and there is A very small (less than 5%) of the clients that are small pharmacies that use the thermometers for their refrigerators. But the majority are normal household use. If your clock or weather station is not working I don’t feel it’s the end of the world. Plus there are online tutorials that are on the website. Both my mom and I are at higher risk and she has co-workers who aren’t taking this seriously.

  21. MAWorker*

    If it is Massachusetts, the list of businesses allowed to be open is found in the order here: https://www.mass.gov/doc/covid-19-essential-services/download
    For MA: My coworker who has a trucker husband said that essential personnel that required travelling around the state required a letter. A friend’s friend has a similar/same authorization letter because he is a postal carrier. My place of employment is WFH as much as possible, and if we do have to go on site, to have our badge as proof of employment in an essential industry so we didn’t get the letters. I suspect that since letters were issued, there will be some degree of law enforcement.

    1. Dumpster Fire*

      My husband works in hazardous/medical materials handling, and has letters from both his company and the company where he spends most of his time (which is a medical equipment/supplies company) stating that he is an essential employee. He was told to show them if he is asked for authorization.

  22. Reality Check*

    I get why some businesses are disobeying the order. Not defending anyone but I do get it. The economic fear is palpable. And I’m wondering when people are going to start snapping.

    1. Amy Sly*

      Seriously. We’re destroying the livelihood of retail workers, service workers, janitorial workers … the most vulnerable people in society who live hand to mouth. And the longer this goes on, the less likely those people will have jobs to come back to.

      Civil disobedience is going to be a real problem if we don’t start setting deadlines for all this, or at bare minimum the criteria that will be used to determine when the quarantine orders can come down. The speakeasies of the 2020s won’t be places to drink but places to get your hair cut, your nails done, or just plain see another human being in the flesh.

      1. une autre Cassandra*

        A deadline would be great but unfortunately viruses don’t work that way. The solution is government intervention: canceling rent and mortgages for a period, meaningful cash support/stimulus payments, basically an expanded safety net. Especially for the most vulnerable.

        1. SomebodyElse*

          Right… but you don’t amputate a foot to fix an ingrown toenail. There has to be some thought to the long term effects as well as the short term ones.

          People will start to disobey they orders when money starts to run out… then more problems will be created by services being run out of unlicensed and unregulated places.

          1. DashDash*

            It’s true that “you don’t amputate a foot to fix an ingrown toenail,” but I think a better metaphor for our current situation is “if the toe has gangrene, cut it off before the foot and leg have it, too.”

            1. SomebodyElse*

              You can use any analogy you want, it doesn’t change the situation that will come up when people run out of money.

              1. Blueberry*

                Another possible solution might be to reduce the bills (have banks postpone mortgage collections so landlords can postpone or forgive rents, for instance) but that would temporarily prevent the accrual of profit so it will never be done in the US.

        2. Amy Sly*

          I understand we can’t just say “On June 1, everything will be fine and can go back to normal.” But the very least we could do is say what has to happen for things to start opening up again. Two weeks of total cases not increasing? Two weeks of no deaths? Random testing says 75% of people have caught it and so any further cases won’t overload our system?

          A situation in which only the white collar folks working from home can pay their bills is the kind of situation that triggers civil disobedience and riots by the dispossessed. You really don’t want Americans going the gilet jaune route. Molotov cocktails are for people who don’t have access to real weapons.

          1. Rebecca1*

            There is absolutely a plan from the CDC— to start re-opening things when the virus gets reduced, roughly, to the mortality and infectiousness level of the seasonal flu (through natural immunities, vaccines, medications, or some other means). The actual question being debated is whether to implement that plan, or make a different one.

      2. Rootswillbeshowingsoon(namechangedforthispost)*

        As soon as the orders came out yesterday my stylist texted me to offer in home services. (I suspect more for the money aspect vs. client retention… who else would I go to during a statewide shutdown) She’s doing it for select clients. I hate that she’s forced to do this, I will take her up on it providing we can both limit risk.

        1. CupcakeCounter*

          Mine did the same but, even though she lives in my neighborhood, I declined since my husband is in an essential field and is still going to work. Obviously he’s taking a lot of precautions but because he leaves daily we are higher risk so I cancelled.

        2. Coverage Associate*

          I am watching Governor Newsom’s hair carefully during this, as even in home stylist visits are not allowed in California.

        3. beanie gee*

          I have great sympathy for the struggling hair stylists, but can people not get by without a haircut for two weeks? If that hairstylist sees five people a day, even if it’s one-on-one, that’s 25 people a week they could be picking up the virus from, or spreading it to.

          The best way to limit risk is to avoid it.

      3. Seeking Second Childhood*

        So take a lesson from Denmark. Their government is investing in the economy to freeze it by paying 75% of salaries of people who would otherwise be laid off. Plan is that when the crisis goes, the business structures are ready to step right up and go back again.

      4. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        And the longer people ignore the staying at home recommendation, the longer we’re going to have to stay at home. I am not unsympathetic to those in vulnerable positions, but ignoring orders is going to make things worse and last longer, which will in turn make things even worse than they are right now for those in vulnerable positions.

      5. Mr. Shark*

        I get your point, but health is the most important thing right now. The immediate sacrifice will cause this thing to be over more quickly. If people are resistant, it just spreads the virus more quickly and more people are infected, and it will take longer to fizzle out.
        The government has to step in and help support failing businesses and the people who are losing jobs. And those people who have the ability to support small business should be doing so.
        But those businesses need to obey the orders. You can’t have GameStop staying open, or non-essential business to keep violating social distancing for a few bucks.

      6. Blueberry*

        After reading this discussion it was interesting to read a few articles about the conservative vs liberal views of the shutdown. Generally conservatives seem to see this as an attack on the US economy, either on purpose by China and/or by liberals who want to damage the US rather than making it great, whereas liberals seem to see this as a public health crisis and feel that the economy can be re-started later. It’s especially interesting to see conservatives cite the economic peril of low-wage workers when the conservative view on raising the minimum wage is that “burger flippers” and “unskilled labor” don’t deserve more money.

  23. Nj Anon*

    NJ has set up a way for people to let them know their employers are violating the shelter in place orders. It got overwhelmed the first day it was available.

  24. Art3mis*

    I have a friend that works for a small law office, and the main lawyer is insisting she come in and that they are “essential” which they aren’t. She’s the only support staff, so if it got reported to police or whomever, they would know it was her. Further, her boss continues to have lunch or drinks at his favorite place who lets him, but again, she can’t report it for the same reasons. Her boss seems to think that this whole thing is overblown.

    1. Brett*

      Lawyers, engineers, and accountants are essential services here. It really does vary from place to place.

    2. irene adler*

      Too bad someone can’t “catch” her at work and squeal to the authorities. Ditto re: boss.

    3. CmdrShepard4ever*

      Many (maybe even most) stay at home/shelter in place orders have exceptions for professional services such as lawyers. Lawsuits often have deadlines and statute of limitations that need to be followed. Some courts have started to shut down and pause cases, but not everyone has. My state clearly states that legal/financial services are considered essential.

      What people commonly think of as essential and what is actually listed as essential in orders are different things.

      1. Art3mis*

        According to her, the type of law they practice isn’t essential. The types of courts they work with are also shut down.

    4. Jennifer*

      It’s very political which is concerning. Leadership at my job seems to follow a certain ideology and seem to think it’s overblown. We just were able to work from home 100% starting yesterday. Before it was only a few days a week.

  25. Cobol*

    Former PR person here. (My opinion) For best results in reaching out to a news site, find one reporter who seems to be converting this and cc them in your email to the local police. Play up that your younger acquaintance does not have the ability to stand up to their employer.

    Then send a similar mail to the general news story emails of the other outlets in you area. You can resend the same mail, but send it separately.

    1. WellRed*

      Just remember: If you put it in an email, the reporter can use it, including your name. I’m not trying to discourage anyone (I’m a reporter myself) but that often surprises people.

  26. itsmorethanjustbeingtired*

    First and foremost- A “stay at home” order and a “shelter in place” order are two different things. Shelter in place is far more restrictive. Be sure you know the difference before you call the police about something like this.

    I live in Massachusetts. My brother works at a department store that processes online orders, these orders include orthopedic footwear, so it is considered essential. Under a stay at home order, he still has to go to work. So be sure your sister’s shop doesn’t fit into this category.

      1. itsmorethanjustbeingtired*

        I understand that, but a lot of people in MA confused “stay at home” with “shelter in place.” Because I lived in the city during the “shelter in place” order after the marathon bombing, it was dramatically different. They didn’t want anyone outside unless absolutely necessary because they were trying to find a hiding terrorist. Cops were everywhere and anyone driving was pulled over and questioned. That’s not what’s happening right now. That’s not what needs to happen right now.

  27. Cobol*

    I work for an essential business, but I’m a marketing person. I can be 100% remote. I just got a signed letter so I could ignore our shelter in place order if I do choose.

    1. PugLife*

      I work for an essential business, I’m a marketer, and I’m able to do all my work from home. We are required to come in no matter what. We also have people in our office who cannot work from home, because they require certain equipment, so nobody’s allowed to WFH because otherwise it’s not “fair”.

      They removed 75% of the chairs in the cafeteria to confirm to social distancing but I guess they forgot that distancing goes in all directions because chairs are places within 2 feet of each other across the table and people routinely just congregate around the few chairs anyway.

      They’ve got their heads in the sand and this is all going to shake out badly. We’re not a state that’s been badly hit (yet) but cases in my country tripled overnight and the numbers are rising rapidly. People are coughing all over the place. It’s not a good place to be.

      1. Cobol*

        Luckily they finally let us work from home. In my department it’s going fine, not sure about others.

        I sit next to our collections person (she’s not collecting right now, mostly deferring payment). Her boss was the only 100% remote employee before this. There’s no reason for her to come in, but she still has to.

  28. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

    My boss has decided (through some amazing mental gymnastics) that we are an essential industry. We’re not a supermarket, or a pharmacy or a doctor’s office or anything that anyone could *need* on a daily basis. We are a…well, I guess a corollary…to the construction industry and everything I’ve read says construction is non-essential.

    I guess if Floriduh goes on lockdown, I’ll reach out to my congresscritter and see what their office can do.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Well, Home Depot was still open here under shortened daytime hours. Because if your toilet breaks, I guess you need parts to fix it. Granted though, a lot of people are using downtime to make home repairs.

      Likewise the auto parts stores were still open too, along with Walmart, Target, grocery and pharmacy.

      1. SweetestCin*

        Auto parts stores – they actually carry some parts that can be necessary to fix semi-trucks though, or to maintain them. And doing that right now, that is definitely essential as they are necessary to replenish food and the like.

        In my state, transportation and logistics falls under critical infrastructure/essential business in the shelter-in-place order.

      2. not that kind of Doctor*

        yes! we had a plumbing emergency & were SO GLAD the hardware store was open. Also glad that it was empty of people so everyone’s personal risk was low. :D

      3. Lynn Whitehat*

        Yeah, we have some rental properties. When my city announced shelter in place, that was literally my first question. “Will hardware stores still be open? And if not, what happens when something breaks rendering a home uninhabitable?” (Hardware stores are open. Whew.)

    2. NLMC*

      Construction is specifically listed as essential on our shelter in place orders.
      I’m sure it’s frustrating for you since it’s not listed as essential where you are at though.

    3. Ranon*

      Construction under our stay at home order is partially essential (construction for critical infrastructure, housing, etc.) and many orders I’ve seen have partial or complete exemptions for construction. We do still need to house people, be able to expand social services buildings, etc.

      That doesn’t mean everyone even remotely related to construction is essential, but it’s definitely one of those big gray areas full of loopholes in most orders.

    4. CA worker*

      Construction has been deemed essential in CA. not sure if it’s all construction or just medical/healthcare/emergency construction, but it’s an open industry right now.

    5. Generic Name*

      It really depends on where you are. Colorado has deemed construction (and all activities supporting construction) as essential.

      1. Moose on skates*

        In Colorado, depending on the type of construction/union membership status, you are able to request a furlough if you think you would be at risk (i.e. you have diabetes).

    6. Ms Mash*

      My son is a construction worker whom works in downtown San Francisco, building an underground tunnel which is considered critical infrastructure that cannot be delayed. His fiance is employed in the financial sector and she’s working from home.

  29. Coverage Associate*

    If it’s an “advisory,” your fixes are only with public opinion. If it’s an order, it carries the force of law.

    Facebook has actually been really good at getting official information out, if you follow official pages for government agencies. In the Bay Area, where LW is not, you call the police’s non emergency line. One county has a dedicated email address for reporting shelter in place violations.

    But generally law enforcement is not going to walk into businesses or approach people violating the orders, in the Bay Area. They have been instructed to avoid contact with people as much as possible. They might intervene directly if it were egregious, and a phone call from the police might be effective for the LW, but don’t expect a knock and talk for a small business, around here.

    1. Arctic*

      I suspect the LW is in Massachusetts. We only have an advisory for shelter-in-place. But non-essential stores are closed. (Of course, the list of what is essential is very forgiving.)

  30. RUKiddingMe*

    And if you do call your reps demand that they shut down the orange blob who is insisting that precautions, social distancing needs to stop because it’s gone on “too long” (yeah, like a week!).

    They have the power to do so as part of the whole “checks and balances” thing. They need to check him right the hell now!

    He is dangerous in so many ways but his, and his obscenely wealthy cronies’ bank accounts are -not- more important than everyone else!!!


  31. Donkey Wrangler*

    In Denver, you can call 3-1-1 to report employers not following the stay at home order.

    1. Keaton*

      Same in New Orleans, they’re actively encouraging people to report to 311 and seem to be addressing a good portion of the information they receive. If your city has a non-emergency line like that – it’s a good way to stay anonymous.

  32. Jennifer*

    I think this is going to be us soon. We have a shelter in place order in the city where I work – I live in a suburb of that city where the restrictions aren’t quite a stringent which just adds to the confusion.

    My work just sent an email saying that while we all can work from home now, technically we can go to work because law firms are listed as a type of business that can stay open. They are correct, but EVERY job here with the exception of a facilities manager perhaps can be done from home. If they try to call our department back in, I’ll be contacting HR, which probably won’t do any good, and then maybe the mayor’s office. We aren’t making ventilators or providing food or doing anything that people can’t live without. There’s no reason for any of us to go to the office.

  33. TV or not TV*

    Unless essential vs nonessential is explicitly defined in your local ordinance, do you really want the police to be the arbiter on that matter? I seriously doubt your average cop knows the inner workings of most businesses. (And that’s not a slam against police. I also seriously doubt most non-cops know the inner workings of daily policing either.)

    1. Coverage Associate*

      The orders, state and county, in California were fleshed out re “essential,” and almost official guidance further explaining came out pretty fast. Every new order considers the orders other jurisdictions drafted, so this stuff is more clear than just the statutes behind a lot of criminal law.

      That said, I was disturbed to see my local police department posting warnings on Facebook that went beyond the minimum required by the orders.

  34. JDC*

    I only even know this because my cousin is a cop in San Diego and was on the news. They are going door to door to businesses ensuring they are closed.

    1. Not Staying-At-Home*

      The police in San Diego should start looking at their own people (not the Police Dept, but the whole City of San Diego organization) for compliance with the stay-at-home order. Employees were told to telecommute if they could, but report to the office if they couldn’t. Many staff are not able to work from home and are not being given the tools to do that so they are going in to the office.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Ah but the city is exempt from everything usually. That’s the rub.

        Our county officials have done the same crap.

        1. Not Staying-At-Home*

          It’s crap, for sure.

          Everybody should stay home. Except for us. We’re essential. Even the people whose jobs have nothing to do with immediate construction issues, life/safety, or providing necessary services. /s

          1. nonegiven*

            The U.S. government defines essential personnel as:

            Healthcare/ Public health
            Law enforcement, Public Safety, First Responders
            Food and Agriculture
            Water and Wastewater
            Transportation and Logistics
            Public Works
            Communications and Information Technology
            Community-based Government Operations and Essential Functions
            Critical Manufacturing
            Hazardous Materials
            Financial Services
            Defense Industrial Base.
            To read more in-depth about the positions, visit the CISA site.

            1. Not Staying-At-Home*

              I know what the essential fields are. But not everybody in an essential field is essential personnel right at this second. Water and wastewater are essential fields but the person whose job it is to define and plan long term water priorities for ~2050 is not so essential that they need to be in the office today. Their work can wait until next month or until IT figures out a way for them to work from home.

      2. WellRed*

        Our governor was quicker to implement certain restrictions but very slow to implement WFH for state workers.

      3. momofpeanut*

        In fairness, those tools are in short supply. Dell computers are saying several months before they can get laptops out. Setting up a government compliant VPN isn’t fast, and if you have one, it may not be easily resized. Phone lines aren’t a simple issue,

  35. Fikly*

    YMMV, but also try your local government. I live in a city, and had an problem (not with my employer, but with a business that was impacted by corona) and reached out to my local city councilman and he got it fixed within 4 hours.

  36. Mike Manager*

    I’d say make sure you know EXACTLY what your state’s order says. My state has a shelter-in-place order too, but stores of all sorts are allowed to continue operating in order to ship things – and their employees are allowed to keep working in order to do the shipping, as long as they observe 6 foot distance between employees, and proper hand washing.

  37. Former Retail Lifer*

    In my state, a few businesses have been reported. I don’t know what the actual protocol is supposed to be, but in the cases I’ve heard about the police were called, confirmed a business was violating the stay-at-home order, and then they got the Department of Health involved. They’re the one getting businesses violating the order to shut down here.

  38. ANon.*

    For naming and shaming on social media, is anyone aware of any associated hashtags to better find these posts? Would love to add my support to workers/ add pressure on companies to do the right thing, but not sure if there’s a consolidated place to find employer horror stories.

  39. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    It’s going to vary drastically to where you are. They’re saying not to call the cops…

    Washington has a HUGE list of what’s essential and there’s a lot of “Uh wait…” moments. Like construction is super messy AF right now over who can work and who can’t.

    1. Cheryl Blossom*

      God, yes. I work at a cabinet distribution center in WA. And my boss and coworkers are claiming that we’re essential…but that seems pretty iffy.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Do you have any government contracts?

        That’s a big thing. But if you’re only doing home cabinetry, not so much. But if you do “some” government work, you’re on standby and therefore able to stay open and work for the Joe Schmos in the meantime.

        1. Cheryl Blossom*

          We do not. We rarely even do commercial work.

          My boss is saying it’s because we’re part of the construction industry, but that…is not how I’m reading that paragraph.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            Argh, gross. I’m sorry he’s dimwitted to say the least and playing with fire.

            They’re stopping construction on ARENAS ffs.

          2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            Scratch it. I just went back and no. He’s not dimwitted.

            That includes anything related to natural gas or energy production, and construction of housing, or anything else considered an essential facility.

            Construction of housing, including those stupid finishing touches is most likely under that. Since it’s “housing” and deemed essential.

  40. NW Mossy*

    Building off others’ comments to read the orders that apply to your area carefully, I went and read Oregon’s. Theirs is interesting because it’s got language in it that also makes it a violation for individuals to patronize businesses that were ordered to close. Even if a business is trying to defy an executive order, they’re also exposing anyone who actually does try to purchase goods/services from them to liability as well as coronavirus. Yeah, no thanks.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Ah the good old “get them both” technique. It’s to discourage patrons as well as the business owners, Kate Brown gets it.

      Like those damn “fines” for handing anything out of your window to a person on the street to avoid panhandling. Tricksy trick but makes the most sense to double down.

      1. NW Mossy*

        My local jurisdiction ain’t playing either. They closed all parks, sports facilities, fields, etc. and they mean business – basketball hoops were taken down, snow fencing put up around playgrounds, gates chained, parking lots closed, bathrooms locked, everything. I’m guessing if you try to go around any of that you can get smacked with trespassing too.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          It’s FUBAR that we have to go that far. But I know it’s necessary because of all the imbeciles who still call this a “hoax” and “fake” and kids coughing on produce in grocery stores to go viral.

          What a time to be alive…for the time being.

  41. Secretary*

    So like a clothing store, yes probably not essential function.

    Please PLEASE though, if you’re reading this make sure you verify that the place you are reporting is not an essential function before you take the time to report them or trash them on social media.

    I’m in the Bay Area in California, and there’s a huge issue here of people misunderstanding what falls under essential function. I work for a tree company and we’ve had a lot of people cancel or move their work because they don’t understand that we fall under essential function. THEIR job might not feel essential to them, but we’re allowed to be working on residential and commercial jobs because we’re also emergency services with the police and fire department when there are fallen trees/limbs.

    When people call us I will even tell them to ask the police department about us, but we can’t stop social media and word of mouth. There are a lot of companies like us too, landscaping services, electricians for outdoor work, recycling services, auto shops, and more that are allowed to be open that are still having to lay off their workers even though social distance is already built into the jobs and they’re LEGALLY allowed to be working. Check out the company before you trash them!!

    1. Fikly*

      Well, verify before you report on social media, but not before you call the police. It’s the police’s job (or whoever the police report this to) to figure out if this is a violation.

      1. Arctic*

        I don’t think anyone should be flooding police with false or unverified reports right now.

        1. Fikly*

          It can be incredibly tricky to parse these orders. It’s not unreasonable to report something to the correct authorities and say, I’m not sure if this is violating the order, but I think it might be, can you check? Especially when your life could be at risk.

          I’m not talking about reporting some random person for grilling outdoors and violating the HOA. And how many employers is one person possibly reporting? It’s not a flood.

    2. Ranon*

      Yeah, as we move into summer/ mosquito season landscaping is actually a public health need for folks who can’t do their own maintenance. Same with pool maintenance. Mosquito borne illnesses don’t care that we’re having a pandemic.

    3. hbc*

      Hmm, in Michigan, we’re being advised that you might be a critical business, but you also have to *only* provide the services that are critical. The idea is that you might have to stay open to make scrubs, but you couldn’t keep your workers making costumes and curtains or whatever else just because you’ve been designated essential. I think arborists/landscapers around here are *required* to cancel appointments that were only about looking pretty versus being a hazard.

      But I’m also told that Michigan’s law is one of the most broad as far as manufacturers go, so maybe it’s not the case elsewhere.

      1. SweetestCin*

        Right. We have a jobsite or two that is considered to be critical. We can provide essential staff and services for those exact jobsites. We cannot provide any non-essential staff for those sites, or any staff for the non-critical sites.

      2. Secretary*

        In CA that’s definitely not the case. Tree work is essential because if the trees aren’t cared for consistantly (aka, made to “look pretty”) there can be major complications down the road.

    4. Coverage Associate*

      Something people should keep in mind is that there are 3 classes of workplaces and 3 classes of employees with regard to these orders. There are the workplaces that must close, the workplaces that should/may close, and the workplaces that should stay open.

      The one that must close that I have researched is houses of worship with no live streaming, no funerals, no social services and no essential operations such as payroll. A workplace that may close is my law office. Legal services are essential under our orders, but our work can be done from home. Similarly, though dry cleaners were “essential” in our county order, mine closed. Obviously police and fire will keep working, and we’re all grateful delivery services and grocery stores stay open, even though all private businesses are like my dry cleaners and haven’t been ordered to stay open.

      Likewise with employees who must stay home, may stay home, or can be required to work.

      So customers may be confused about what’s permissible and also may make a different choice about what permissible services they want.

  42. WellRed*

    If it’s applicable, I agree with the advice to escalate it to either regional or corporate.

  43. JediSquirrel*

    Our state got shut down this week and every business that sells something a doctor or nurse might buy has suddenly decided they are essential. It’s ridiculous. And dangerous.

    I guess capitalism will be mass-extinction event, after all.

  44. RPL*

    My wife works for a public library, and the city itself is refusing to allow the libraries to close despite issuing a shelter-in-place for everyone else. Her friends, also librarians but in different parts of the country, have similar stories. In NY of all places, a library system is currently being threatened with losing government funding if they close. It’s really frustrating.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      WUT?! Libraries have been shut down over here for awhile now, that’s interesting in that awful way.

      1. RPL*

        Are they really though, or are they just closed to the public? In many places, libraries are closed to the public, but workers still have to go in. Which just adds to the ridiculousness because what are workers supposed to do if services are suspended?

        1. RPL*

          I should note that this is actually my wife’s situation. Services are all suspended, customers aren’t allowed in, but everyone (and I do mean everyone, they’ve done away with shifts, so every employee is in the building at exactly the same time every day) still has to come in. She and her coworkers banded together to push back against the ruling and were told “You should be thankful we aren’t like XYZ and have actually suspended services. Just wash your hands, stop touching your face, and stop complaining.”

        2. SarahTheEntwife*

          There are tons of things librarians can do either from home or in the library with no patrons — cataloging, scanning items to send to offsite researchers, reference/research help, maintaining online resources, probably other things depending on what kind of library it is.

          That said, libraries need to CLOSE. To staff as well as the public.

        3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          I’d assume they were because I personally know librarians and staff that are losing their jobs and going on unemployment due to it. Nobody is going on. I can also tell by the amount of traffic we do not have on our roads. And the near empty buses I see. Yeah, I keep rubbernecking at buses to see if there’s much going on there, I’m turning into a meddlesome old lady at the ripe age of 36.

          But I’m not questioning your wife works for a vile corrupt branch though, there are plenty of those situations to go around and I question nothing in that way.

      2. WellRed*

        Our libraries were one of the first places to shut down. Don’t even drop a return in the bookdrop cause there ain’t no one there to process it.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      The library in Suburb is closed until April 6 (at least). Since the county order is for April 22, they might be closed longer than that.

      I just looked up OldCity’s 10-branch library and all branches are closed, book drops are locked, and the drive-thrus are shut. BUT—they are not charging overdue fees, so that’s something.

      1. L*

        My City/County’s libraries are just extending due dates until May, I think, to account for the closures.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          That might be how they’re doing it; I just looked at the announcement bar at the top of the webpage and didn’t go any further. All it said was “You will not be charged for any overdue fines. Keep your book until we reopen.”

          So it may be that as long as you’re within that time frame, the fee is waived. Usually, checkout time is three weeks except for FastTrack books (current best sellers). Either way, it’s very nice that they’re doing that.

    3. Arctic*

      State and local workers all over are really feeling it. And people don’t know because a lot of governments are giving lip-service to WFH or closing.

      For instance, I’m in Mass. My mother works for a state agency that is currently closed to the public. She’s a desk clerk so her main job is greeting the public. Still has to go in every day. But most people think workers like her have this time off. Because the office is closed and the Governor claimed to be allowing WFH but when you dig down it’s really for just a select few.

      1. RPL*

        Yeah, this is what’s galling to me. The very people who are publicly touting the importance of WFH and locking everything down (and who are being publicly praised for doing so) are making questionable decisions about what is essential and what is nonessential. Here at least (one of the largest cities in the US), executives seem to be the only government workers allowed to WFH, and I’m having trouble believing that they’re the only ones in the entire system who are “nonessential” and thus capable of working remotely.

    4. nonegiven*

      Our library is closed to the public but you can call and they send the (handicap access) elevator down with your book.

  45. MT*

    In Ohio the Department of Health is taking all reports of improper businesses open and funneling them to right place.

  46. Liza*

    Whether or not you should call the police depends greatly on who you are calling them on. If the business is owned or staffed by immigrants (esp if they could be undocumented) or people of color or trans/queer folks who are in the greatest danger of police violence, I would exhaust absolutely EVERY other option and check closely that they’re really in violation first.

    1. J.*

      It’s not like every other social problem has magically cleared up overnight, and that includes the rampant issues around police abuse of power. If anything, tensions are heightened and things are even more stressful for everyone. I would never suggest calling the police as the first option, that’s going to get someone killed.

  47. Megan J.*

    In addition to police and non-emergent (311-type) reporting, also contact the office of any local elected official who represents the location of the business (City Council member etc.).

    The closest level of government can have the best local relationships to intervene quickly.

  48. Retail not Retail*

    Zoos are closed to the public (entertainment), but we are research, vet care, livestock, and agriculture. Our retail staff is off, probably most of the admin people are wfh but the rest of us are essential employees of a non essential venue.

  49. Shananana*

    I’m surprised these retail stores haven’t come up with a buy now ship later option. Personally I am avoiding shopping right now out of guilt for people then needing to ship and deliver those non essential items, but if I could say, yes, buy while on sale, ship to me May 1st (or whatever date), I’d be all over that. I recognize I can lean naively trusting though.

    1. Atlantis*

      I saw today that amazon does slightly. There was an option for delayed or non-priority shipping. It was still free like the prime was, but they gave you a $3 credit to use the delayed option so that they can prioritize deliveries that are more essential. I’m not sure if that credit goes up based on how much you were spending (my order was only $15) but it was nice to see. Hopefully more businesses include this option as well.

  50. Pamplemeow*

    Is anyone else’s employer arguing they’re an essential business because they technically do one of the “essential business” functions but its like 0.1% of what the company does overall?

    1. JediSquirrel*

      Yep. Seeing a lot of that, actually. Had a customer say they had to stay open because their trucks are used by medical personnel.

  51. Gazebo Slayer*

    My employer is having me do various errands for them, and my job involves physical goods which need to be moved from place to place, but my job history is so bad I really don’t have other options other than random gig economy stuff. I basically fear I will never be able to support myself again if I don’t do everything they ask. I’m already on thin ice with my boss for even bringing up the subject of coronavirus; he has said he isn’t worried about it at all, and the Superstar New Employee said the same.

    I’m working extra hours unpaid (I’m hourly) because he’s so upset about the lowered productivity. My home network is slow and unreliable, which limits the speed at which I can work, and he said something to the effect of “we’re going to have to see if your productivity is worth it” which I interpreted as “get your internet to work faster or you’re fired.” Yesterday I worked 9 am to 12:45 am.

    I can’t really complain about any of this because my only other option is precarious work that will take me away from home into a lot more public spaces (or long-term unemployment and likely permanent poverty or dependence on family with their own problems to deal with).

    1. Jeffrey Deutsch*

      I’m very sorry!

      I’ll bet 10:1 your boss isn’t actually “upset”; he’s just acting that way to try to intimidate you.

      I hope you can find a new job soon.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Honestly though, this is one of the best jobs I’ve had. I have no desire for a different one because there are so many good things about this job – and I am very wary of changing jobs because I’ve had some really bad ones. I’m mostly afraid of losing this one, especially at a time like this, so I am afraid of my boss’s reactions to the setbacks I’m running into.

  52. Employment Lawyer*

    Your goal: Avoid working BUT don’t get fired.

    1) I would not take it to social media. Any employee who does that is probably going to get fired and *even if the company was acting wrongly* you may not have recourse because “badmouthing your employer on social media rather than following proper channels” is usually a SEPARATELY fire-able offense. Even if they don’t do it right away, you’ll get driven out soon.

    2) Do not make other people’s problems into your problems. I know it’s tempting, especially online, but as a rule you have fewer rights when you object on someone else’s behalf. If you really want to play organizer go nuts, you may have some protections, but the risk is higher.

    3) Do not call the police, at least not at first. See #1 and #2.

    4) Do write an email *with a bcc to your other accounts so you have a records of delivery* which is logical, factual, and blunt. “I’m sorry, but there is a lock-down in order and we are not an essential business. Under my understanding of the law, I am not allowed to come in. I’m sorry I can’t be of more help.” Or something like that. If that is all you do–and if they fire you for it–then you will be in a much better position.

    5) If you feel really strongly about this, you can call the cops, but generally speaking (as someone who also does some criminal law) involving cops often has consequences that go beyond what people imagine. Up to you; I probably wouldn’t do it.

  53. Watry*

    I expect most commenters here would do this anyway, but just in case: please, please check your area’s website before calling the police line re: how your area is handling things like stay home orders (what qualifies as essential, etc.). I’ve spent all day just transferring caller after caller to our COVID-19 hotline because we here at PD just don’t have the answers either, and people aren’t checking the website to see the GIANT HOTLINE NUMBER.

  54. L*

    I was hoping this post would be about Joann (Fabrics and Crafts) who are “sort of closed” in a lot of places, but forcing employees to come in to pack online/curbside pickup (extremely non-essential) and who corporate has mandated create mask baggies–

    That’s right, the “sew masks for hospitals!” are a) UNWASHED fabric cut from in-store bolts by employees and then bagged to be given out at the curb and b) highly ineffective and will not be accepted by most medical facilities due to lack of sterilization (however, I’m hearing some nursing homes and other places are accepting them as a “better than nothing” measure).

    I often go to Joann for my small business/side hustle needs, but I’m surely going to source out other places when I need any more supplies (orders are, understandably, down).

  55. momofpeanut*

    For Michigan:
    First, read the EO – there are a lot more exceptions than you think.


    A business that is illegally open needs to be reported to local law enforcement.
    In addition, file a written complaint with the AG Consumer Protection Division. Don’t call; they are swamped and they are only telling you to file a written complaint.

    If you are working with someone sick, report to local health department.

    Source: my spouse runs a state government office that is handling these questions all day.

  56. Lorac*

    My understanding is that depending on your state, it’s still legal for employers to have a skeleton staff available to retain business functions. For universities, lab workers still need to go in to make sure their samples (fish, plants, algae) are alive, even though they might not technically fall under the category of “essential”.

    For my brother’s company, they’re definitely non-essential, but they have one person coming in each day in 3-hour shifts to handle shipping and packaging. The office has no one else and they’re not exposed to anyone. It’s just the bare minimum to make sure orders are still being processed and shipped out (although at a much slower pace). They’re trying to make sure all their workers are getting at least 15 hrs a week but if things last longer, they’ll have salary cuts and eventually layoffs.

    1. Retail not Retail*

      Our order makes exemptions for labs/research which is probably a huge relief to any scientists whose work was ruined by the shutdown last year.

  57. Observer*

    OP, please report back. I hope that this is just a rouge manager, who gets fired for breaking the law.

  58. Chatterby*

    Look up and read the actual official order for your state. Many of them have exceptions for “minimum basic operations” being permitted to continue at non-essential businesses. A lot of them also say warehouses are permitted to remain open and shipping products. And many also say any business can continue so long as it’s done from home. So there are quite a few loop holes for them to wriggle through. They could be classifying shipping products as part of their “minimum basic operations” or argue that the closed retail store is now functioning as a warehouse. If push comes to shove, they could get around it all by dumping off loads of clothes at their employees’ homes and have them prep shipments there.

  59. MistOrMister*

    I don’t understand when a company tells people they can work at home but the manager says no. We were told last week that we could work from home as long as our supervisors agreed. And my first thought was, but what if your supervisor either isn’t ok with working from home or can’t stand you and forces you to come in?? We’re not a mandatory shelter in place statw though, so I guess there isn’t as much ability to push back.

  60. Just Saying*

    It could very well be an essential business. The poster sounds like he/she is just looking for a reason to go off. It doesn’t even say it is him/her affected, but rather an aquaintence. Not even a friend. Cut the business some slack. We are all just trying to get through this to the other side.

  61. Brooklyn Nine-Niner*

    As a state legislative staffer, I’d also recommend contacting your state legislators (there should be a way to find out who yours is on the website for your state legislature), because they generally have much smaller constituencies and more local connections to help you, and are generally a lot more involved in state and local issues like quarantines, and generally have dedicated staff who’s able to help as well. So please, don’t hesitate to contact your state legislator!

  62. Anon for this one*

    My asshole boss had us brainstorming coronavirus-related products our plant might make – hand sanitizer, etc. I found out that his real intention is to find a way to circumvent a shutdown order if we get one. Right now, chemical manufacturing is classified as essential in our state, but he’s prepared in case that changes.

  63. Observer*

    Well, if the employer is in Los Angeles, the problem will get taken care of by itself…

    Los Angeles is planning to force businesses to shut down by cutting utilities.

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