Effective July 6, travelers coming into the City of Chicago from 15 designated high-risk states have been asked to quarantine for 14 days or risk incurring fines. With few exceptions to the order, employers will have to navigate the practical implications that are sure to arise as summer travel heats up.

Who is Impacted by the Order?

The emergency travel order requires persons entering the City of Chicago from states currently seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases to self-quarantine for two weeks. On or after July 6, 2020, anyone coming into the City of Chicago from states with a case rate greater than 15 new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 resident population, per day, over a seven-day rolling average, must self-quarantine for the entirety of their time in the City or for 14 days following their contact with a designated state, whichever is shorter.

As of the date the order was passed, travelers from the following 15 designated states will need to quarantine: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah. This list of designated states will remain in effect until July 17. Starting July 14, the City will publish a new list of designated states every Tuesday, which will go into effect three days later.

Travelers who spend less than 24 hours in a designated state will not be required to quarantine. This means that driving through a designated state, or having a layover in an airport in a designated state, will not require quarantine. Additionally, travelers who fly into a Chicago airport and then travel directly out of city limits are not subject to the quarantine order.

Exceptions to the Order

The order contains a narrow exception for business travel by essential workers who work in critical infrastructure as designated by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. Essential workers are permitted to travel between Chicago and designated states so long as that travel is for the primary purpose of carrying out their work, and so long as the worker needs to be physically present in Chicago (for residents of a designated state) or the designated state (for Chicago residents) in order to carry out that work. The employee will need identification issued by their employer.

Essential workers engaging in business travel are required to (1) avoid any non-essential interactions until the quarantine period has ended and limit their activities to work-related activities and functions while avoiding public spaces as much as possible; (2) monitor temperature and signs of symptoms, wear a face covering when in public, maintain social distance, and clean and disinfect workspaces; and (3) avoid extended periods in public, contact with strangers, and large congregate settings.

The only current exceptions for personal travel are for people who must travel for medical care or because of parental shared custody. There are no exceptions for employees who (1) have already tested positive for coronavirus, (2) live outside of Chicago city limits, or (3) were traveling to a designated state when the order went into effect.

Employer Obligations

Businesses with employees who conduct non-work-related travel to one of the designated states should be aware of their obligations under the travel order. While the order appears to punish only those who fail to quarantine, it could potentially impact employer obligations under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), as well as the City of Chicago’s paid sick leave and anti-retaliation ordinances.

  • The FFCRA requires employers with between 50 and 500 employees to provide paid sick leave for coronavirus-related reasons. An employee subject to quarantine because of the travel order may be eligible for FFCRA-mandated leave.
  • The City of Chicago’s anti-retaliation ordinance prohibits businesses from taking adverse employment actions against covered employees who follows a local quarantine order. Therefore, an employee who must quarantine under the City’s travel order should not be disciplined or penalized for doing so.
  • Chicago’s paid sick leave law requires employers to permit “Covered Employees” who work within City limits to accrue up to 40 hours of paid sick leave per year, to be used when they are ill or injured, receiving medical care or preventive medical care, caring for a sick family member, or caring for a child whose place of care has been ordered closed by a public health official. A Covered Employee who is required to quarantine under the travel order may be eligible to take unused paid sick leave for the duration of the order.

Note, however, that businesses do not need to provide these leaves if employees are able to telework during the quarantine period.

Schiff Hardin’s Coronavirus Task Force will continue to address the significant business, legal, and economic challenges that accompany the COVID-19 pandemic. Stay tuned for additional insights on ongoing COVID-19 pandemic challenges and issues facing businesses.