Alerts and Updates

Travel Restrictions Are Back, but with State-by-State Twists

July 9, 2020

Even if a state’s actions are only advisory, the failure to follow such advice (guidance) may expose an employer to risk.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. employers were asking employees to report if they had visited certain countries and, if the answer was yes, the employees were subject to at least a 14‑day quarantine. We say “at least” because if the employee developed symptoms or worse, the quarantine would become an isolation and would be longer than 14 days.

When the pandemic worsened, international travel all but stopped in accordance with travel advisories from the U.S. State Department. The enemy was already within our borders and international travel receded as an issue.

As the pandemic resurges after the country effectively has gone green, travel-related quarantines restrictions are now back. But now we are looking at travel within the United States.

A growing number of states, including Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, have imposed (at least) 14‑day quarantine periods if an individual visits any among a list of states. And the lists of states covered by these quarantine requirements continue to grow. New York, Connecticut and New Jersey just expanded their lists and we can expect other states to develop or expand their lists. The following lists are current as of July 9:

New York and Connecticut

Alabama; Arizona; Arkansas; California; Delaware; Florida; Georgia; Idaho; Iowa; Kansas; Louisiana; Mississippi; Nevada; North Carolina; Oklahoma; South Carolina; Tennessee; Texas; Utah

Pennsylvania

Alabama; Arizona; Arkansas; California; Florida; Georgia; Idaho; Louisiana; Mississippi; Nevada; North Carolina; South Carolina; Tennessee; Texas; Utah 

New Jersey

Alabama; Arizona; Arkansas; California; Delaware; Florida; Georgia; Idaho; Iowa; Kansas; Louisiana; Mississippi; Nevada; North Carolina; Oklahoma; South Carolina; Tennessee; Texas; Utah 

It is important to note that this not a blue state/red state issue. On New York’s list are California and Delaware, both deep blue. Also, the nature of the restrictions vary by state. For example, in some states the quarantine is mandatory, such as in New York. In others it is advisory, such as New Jersey. The New York travel advisory does not apply to persons passing through designated states for a limited duration (i.e., less than 24 hours) through the course of travel. There are also state specific exceptions, such as for essential workers (e.g., New York) and business travel (e.g., New Jersey). And, there are other states that currently have restrictions or advisories beyond the four mentioned here. Plus, cities are looking at restrictions, too. Chicago is the first.  

What This Means for Employers

Employers should require employees to disclose their travel to certain states or any out of state travel, all while routinely reviewing the lists of states as they grow and then hopefully shrink. We fear they will grow before they shrink. Employers who operate in multiple states may wish to consider applying the more restrictive rule to all of their locations.

These new restrictions are particularly important in terms of vacation requests as well as travel by employees as part of their jobs. Those who approve vacation and/or work travel must be made aware of them. Preapproval of business travel is recommended.

Even if a state’s actions are only advisory, the failure to follow such advice (guidance) may expose an employer to risk.

Employers need to be careful in their communications not to prohibit off-duty travel but to explain the potential consequences of it. To prohibit nonwork-related travel within the U.S. may run afoul of some state laws, such as New York’s, that protect off-duty conduct or interfere with FMLA rights and result in negative employee relations.

About Duane Morris

Duane Morris has created a COVID-19 Strategy Team  to help employers plan, respond to and address this fast-moving situation. Contact your Duane Morris attorney for more information. Prior Alerts on the topic are available on the team’s webpage.

For More Information

If you have any questions about this Alert, please contact Jonathan A. Segal, Jonathan D. Wetchler, any of the attorneys in our Employment, Labor, Benefits and Immigration Practice Group or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.

Disclaimer: This Alert has been prepared and published for informational purposes only and is not offered, nor should be construed, as legal advice. For more information, please see the firm's full disclaimer.