A nonessential employee is someone employed in a job that is not crucial during an emergency like the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic. Nonessential employees are not required to maintain business operational functions during natural disasters because their duties do not affect health and safety infrastructures.
See our latest information on essential employees and essential businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nonessential Employees vs. Essential Employees:
A nonessential employee's duties do not impact the critical infrastructure of a city, state, or country. Essential employees are employed in roles that are vital during a natural disaster or emergency, such as healthcare workers, emergency services, and public workers. Often, an essential employee is required to work long hours to ensure operational needs are met.
The Role of Nonessential Employees During COVID-19:
During the COVID-19 pandemic, nonessential employees in various states across the U.S. were ordered to stay at home to help control the spread of the virus. Depending on the business's operational functions, nonessential employees are either asked to work from home or accept paid or unpaid leave. In many cases, nonessential employees were laid off because businesses were not making enough sales or because they were required to shut down.
Nonessential employees are classified by the state a business operates in and the role of the employee. An employee can perform duties in an essential business but they may not be required to work during a business closing or state of emergency. For example, technicians or engineers of an energy company are needed to maintain the system, whereas an administrator at the energy company may not be required to work as their role does not affect the overall infrastructure.
Generally, essential employees are given an Essential Employee Letter when they start a job at a business or organization. This letter will inform them that during an emergency, they are expected to fulfill their duties. When an organization or business announces "Essential Employees Only," this is an indication to nonessential employees that their services are not needed at that time.
Each state is responsible for classifying essential and nonessential employees. However, most states have adopted the 14 Categories of Essential Employees outlined by the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).
The 14 Categories of Essential Employees include:
- First responders.
- Food and agriculture.
- Water and sanitation.
- Transportation and logistics.
- Public services.
- Communications and information technology.
- Community-based government operations and essential functions.
- Financial services.
- Hazardous material management.
- Defense industrial base.
- Chemical management.
If your job does not fall under any one of the 14 categories listed by CISA, you should consider your role as nonessential. We recommend contacting your state's government office to verify whether your job or role in the business is deemed necessary during a statewide or national emergency.
Examples of Nonessential Employees:
- Waiters and waitresses.
- Museum employees.
- Landscapers and gardeners.
- Personal trainers.
- Certain cleaning services.
- Administrators (depends on the type of business).
- Manufacturers (depends on the type of business).
- Teachers and university lecturers (may require employees to work from home).
- Retail clerks in businesses like cosmetics, clothing, or electronic stores.
- Employees in the entertainment industry, including employees at movie theatres, theme parks, and concert halls.
Nonessential Employees by State:
Stay At Home
On 28 March, Gov. Kay Ivey instituted a "safer at home" order that permits nonessential businesses to open but they are subject to sanitation and social distancing guidelines.
On 24 April, Gov. Mike Dunleavy allowed personal services businesses and restaurants to reopen under strict social distancing guidelines.
On 4 May, Gov. Doug Ducey announced that retail stores will open on 8 May and restaurants will reopen on 11 May. The statewide order remains in effect until 15 May.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced that nonessential businesses will reopen in phases between 30 April and 11 May.
On March 19, an indefinite stay at home order was implemented by the California government. On 4 May, the state announced some nonessential retailers will be permitted to reopen with pickup and physical distancing.
On 27 April, Gov. Jared Polis issued a "safer at home" order that will last until the 27 May. This order permits the reopening of some nonessential businesses.
On the March 23, Connecticut issued a "stay safe, stay at home" policy that includes any nonessential business or entity providing nonessential services. The policy ends on 20 May.
On March 24, Gov. John Carney issued a statewide stay-at-home order that will remain in effect until May 15. The order calls for all nonessential businesses to close down.
On March 25, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced a stay at home order that calls for all nonessential businesses to close. These include gyms, tour guides, nightclubs, and more.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has eased the Florida statewide stay at home order as of 4 May. Some nonessential businesses like restaurants and retailers are allowed to operate with 25% capacity.
On April 24, Gov. Brian Kemp eased restrictions, allowing most nonessential businesses to reopen.
On May 5, Gov. David Ige announced a "safer at home" order to ease the stay-at-home restrictions. The order comes into effect on May 7, with some nonessential businesses returning to work.
On May 2, Gov. Brad Little announced that Idaho will enter the first stage of the state's recovery plan, allowing certain nonessential businesses to reopen.
On May 1, Gov. J.B. Pritzker instituted a modified stay-at-home order that permits some nonessential businesses to reopen. On May 5, the governor also announced a 5 stafe reopening plan.
Gov. Eric Holcomb issued a five stage statewide reopening plan. Some nonessential businesses in the manufacturing, retail, industrial, commercial, and infrastructure industries are allowed to operate.
There is no statewide stay at home order in place.
On May 4, the stay-at-home order officially expired and the state entered a stage one of its reopening. Some nonessential businesses are allowed to reopen under strict guidelines.
On May 4, Kentucky will start its phased reopening that will last until May 20. During this time, most nonessential businesses will be allowed to operate.
On March 23, Gov. John Bel Edwards implemented a stay-at-home order that will last until May 15. The order has since been upgraded to include the reopening of some nonessential businesses.
On March 31, Gov. Janet Mills issued a statewide stay at home order that calls for the closing of most nonessential businesses. However, on May 1, some nonessential businesses will be allowed to operate. The stay at home order will last until the end of May.
On March 23, Maryland's government placed a stay at home order in place that bans the operation of nonessential businesses.
On March 24, Gov. Charlie Baker issued a stay at home order requiring all nonessential businesses to close their physical workplaces. This order will last until May 18.
On the March 24, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered Michigan residents to stay at home until May 15 but also relaxed restrictions so some nonessential businesses can reopen.
On March 27, Gov. Tim Walz announced that Minnesota residents will be placed on a statewide lockdown until May 18. On May 4, some retail businesses will be allowed to offer pickup and delivery services.
On 01 April, Gov. Tate Reeves announced a statewide shelter-in-place order that will last until May 11. Nonessential businesses are prohibited from operating.
On April 27, Gov. Mike Parson officially announced a "Show Me Strong Recovery" plan that allows some nonessential employees to return to work.
Gov. Steve Bullock announced a gradual and phases reopening plan that will last between April 27 and May 4. Some nonessential businesses will be allowed to operate under social distancing guidelines.
Nebraska has not announced a statewide stay at home order. Most nonessential businesses are able to continue operations.
On March 17, Gov. Steve Sisolak announced that all nonessential businesses in the state close their doors until mid-May.
On March 27, Gov. Chris Sununu issued a stay-at-home order that will last until the end of May. Some nonessential businesses will be allowed to gradually open between May 11 and May 18.
On March 21, Gov. Phil Murphy announced a stay at home order that does not allow the opening of nonessential businesses.
On the March 24, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham instituted a "statewide stay-at-home instruction" that will prohibit the opening of nonessential businesses until May 15.
On March 22, Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered all workers in nonessential employees to stay at home.
On May 5, Gov. Roy Cooper announced a phased reopening of nonessential businesses which will take effect from May 8.
Currently, there is no statewide stay at home order in place.
On 4 May, Gov. Mike DeWine issued a statewide reopening plan that allows nonessential businesses in the manufacturing, distribution, and construction industries to return to work on 4 May. However, the state remains under lockdown until end of May.
On March 24, Gov. Kevin Stitt announced an executive order advising Oklahoma residents to stay home and avoid groups of 10 or more people. However, some nonessential businesses are allowed to open in May.
On March 23, Gov. Kate Brown issued an executive order calling for Oregon residents and nonessential employees to stay home.
Gov. Tom Wolf announced the reopening of the state in three phases beginning May 8th. Some nonessential businesses will be allowed to open.
On March 28, Gov. Gina Raimondo issued a statewide order calling for the closing of nonessential businesses until May 8. The state will then start reopening plans.
On 4 May, the statewide stay at home order expires. Businesses are still ordered to follow social distancing guidelines.
South Dakota has no statewide stay at home order in place. Nonessential businesses are still operating.
On March 30, Gov. Bill Lee issued a statewide stay at home order that will last until May 30. However, some nonessential businesses in several states have been permitted to reopen in phases.
On May 5, Gov. Greg Abbot announced a state reopening plan that will come into effect on May 8. Some nonessential businesses will be allowed to start operating.
Utah does not have a statewide stay at home order in place. However, the Utah government has put in place restrictions that affect nonessential businesses.
On March 25, Gov. Phil Scott implemented a "Stay Home, Stay Safe" order which directs all nonessential businesses to close until May 15. However, some nonessential employees will be allowed to return to work in phases from May 4.
On March 24, Gov. Ralph Northam announced that all Virginia schools and nonessential businesses will be closed until mid-June.
On March 23, Gov. Jay Inslee issued a "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" order requiring residents to stay at home for until the end of May. On My 4, the state started its reopening plan which allows some nonessential businesses to open.
On April 30, Gov. Jim Justice issued a modified stay-at-home order that allows most nonessential businesses to operate under strict safety measures.
On March 25, Gov. Tony Evers issued a "Safer at Home" order that bans all nonessential businesses from opening. The order will end on May 26.
Currently, there is no statewide stay at home order in place. On March 19, Gov. Mark Gordon ordered the closing of all public places for a two-week period. These include theaters, bars, salons, and restaurants.
The table above was created on 06/05/2020. The information provided could change as the COVID-19 pandemic develops.
What is a nonessential employee?
A nonessential employee is an employer that is not required to work during an authorized business shutdown. The work conducted by nonessential employees is not considered crucial during a statewide emergency.
What are nonessential services?
Nonessential services are classified by the state the business operates in and the type of business. Nonessential services are not deemed necessary during a statewide emergency. Examples of nonessential work include services provided salons, movie theaters, gyms, and certain retail stores.
Who is considered nonessential employees in a state of emergency in New York?
During a state of emergency in New York, certain employees are considered nonessential if their job does not directly impact the health and safety of all New Yorkers. Examples of nonessential employees in New York include hairdressers, clothing and electronic retail store clerks, personal trainers, and employees that perform private services at residential homes like cleaning and cooking.
Are nonessential employees entitled to paid leave during a statewide lockdown?
This will depend on the business that the nonessential employee works for, the state of their employment is during the lockdown, and whether they're able to work from home.
Do nonessential employees qualify for unemployment benefits during a statewide lockdown?
It depends on the situation. A nonessential employee who is laid off, or partially laid off, due to the coronavirus may be entitled to unemployment. The best way to find out is to check with your state.