Philadelphia Mandates Business Closures, Regulatory Changes to Slow the Spread of Coronavirus

March 17, 2020

By Brian J. McGinnis

As part of efforts to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus, the Philadelphia Board of Health announced new restriction on businesses and changes to certain laws applicable to city businesses, effective March 16.


Starting March 16, 2020 at 5 P.M. through at least March 27, 2020, the City of Philadelphia has ordered that only essential businesses should remain open.

During this time, food service establishments are permitted only to accommodate online and phone orders for delivery and takeout; dine-in service is prohibited.

For the time being, the following businesses have been designated “essential” and may remain open:

  • supermarkets and grocery stores
  • big box stores
  • pharmacies
  • discount stores, mini-markets and non-specialized food stores
  • daycare centers
  • hardware stores
  • gas stations
  • banks
  • post offices
  • laundromats and drycleaners
  • veterinary clinics for domestic pets and pet stores

In addition to these categories, the City announced that businesses that sell any of the following products are deemed to be essential: frozen products; non-specialized stores [sic] of computers, telecommunications equipment, audio and video consumer electronics, household appliances; IT and telecommunication equipment; hardware, paint, flat glass; electrical, plumbing and heating material; automotive fuel; domestic fuel; sanitary equipment; personal hygiene products [sic] medication not requiring medical prescription; medical and orthopedic equipment; optics and photography equipment; and soaps and detergents.”


In addition to business closures, the City has announced that it will not enforce the predictability pay requirements of the city’s Fair Workweek Ordinance. The law’s predictability pay requirements had required covered businesses to pay compensation to employees when an employee’s schedule was changed from the employer’s good faith estimate of the hours an employee was scheduled to work in a particular week.

In making this announcement, however, the city has reiterated that the law’s remaining provisions will continue to apply. For more background on these requirements, see our previous Alert on this ordinance.


The City also announced that its paid sick leave ordinance, otherwise known as the Promoting Healthy Families and Workplaces Act, has been expanded to permit employees to use accrued paid sick leave to stay home due to a quarantine, workplace closure, or to care for a child due to a school closure. It is unclear whether the city has the authority to unilaterally expand sick leave since neither the ordinance nor the regulations provide for the use of  paid sick leave for reasons related to public health emergencies.

Although the city has not released further details regarding the paid sick leave expansion, employers should nevertheless review their policies and practices relating to paid sick leave.