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What Employers Need to Know about the Chicago Travel Quarantine Order

Coronavirus Labor & Employment

On July 2, 2020, the City of Chicago issued Public Health Order 2020-10, which requires persons entering the City of Chicago from certain states to self-quarantine for a period of 14 days. Additional details are included in a set of Frequently Asked Questions issued by the City. The order takes effect July 6, 2020. It applies to people entering the City from states that have a COVID-19 case rate greater than 15 new cases per 100,000 resident population, per day, over a 7-day rolling average. The order currently covers people traveling from 15 states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah. The list will be updated each Tuesday starting July 14, 2020. Individuals who violate the order are subject to fines of $100 to $500 per day, up to $7,000.

Quarantine Requirements

Individuals subject to the order “must not be in public or otherwise leave the dwelling that they have identified as suitable for their quarantine, unless seeking medical care or COVID-19 testing.” Individuals traveling for medical care or testing, or from the airport, bus station, or train station, must wear a face covering and are not permitted to use public transportation. They are not allowed to leave their dwelling to obtain food or supplies – all items must be delivered. The traveling individual or family group is directed to isolate from other household members within the dwelling and to self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms. Covered individuals are required to quarantine for the full 14-day period even if they test negative for COVID-19.


The order includes an exception for “essential workers,” as defined in the City’s FAQs. For purposes of the order, “essential workers” are generally limited to those who work in certain “critical infrastructure as designated by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency” and who are required to travel to carry out their work. Essential workers must have a written certification from their employer and are required to observe certain additional precautions during their quarantine period. The FAQ guidance also specifies that exceptions will be allowed for travel for medical care and for parental shared custody, and that the Commissioner of Health may grant other exemptions “based upon an organization’s or business’ testing and other control policies or in extraordinary circumstances ….”

Implications for Employers

As with so many COVID-19-related issues, the City’s new order raises a variety of interrelated legal and practical issues for employers. Employers should work closely with their labor and employment counsel to identify these issues and craft a response that appropriately balances business needs with safety and legal compliance. 

While directed at individual travelers, the new order has significant implications for employers that operate in Chicago or whose employees reside in the City. Employees (other than “essential workers”) who return from travel to one of the states covered by the order will likely be unable to report for work for the duration of their mandated quarantine period. Employers covered by the paid sick leave provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) may be required to extend up to two weeks (80 hours) of paid sick leave to such employees if they cannot telework during their quarantine period. Employers not covered by the FFCRA should determine whether employees who are required to quarantine under the new order will be permitted to use available vacation, PTO or other leave under the employer’s policies or any applicable collective bargaining agreement.

Employers that wish to certify employees as “essential workers” under the new order should carefully review the requirements for essential workers and clearly communicate with any exempted employees regarding the safety precautions they are to take both within and outside of the workplace.

Employers whose workers may be affected by the order may wish to proactively communicate with employees regarding travel plans and might consider asking or even directing employees to curtail non-essential personal travel to covered states to avoid prolonged absences from work. Although the order applies only to persons within the City of Chicago, employers outside of Chicago may also wish to consider asking employees to limit non-essential personal travel and requiring those traveling from COVID-19 hotspots to isolate for a period of time before returning to work.

For more information or assistance with your organization’s COVID-19 planning and response efforts, please reach out to the authors of this post or any Franczek Attorney.