Essential Business Further Defined for Construction Industry During COVID-19

On March 27, 2020, Governor Andrew Cuomo made a significant change to the status of construction workers in New York State. Previously, construction workers were designated as essential workers exempt from the 100% workforce restrictions (of non-essential businesses) required by Executive Order 202.6. The update now designates most construction workers in New York State as non-essential under 202.6 guidelines. The changes ordered by Governor Cuomo will result in the shutdown of most commercial (hotels, apartments, shopping centers) and residential project construction sites.


The changes made by Governor Cuomo are partially in response to complaints—from those in the construction industry—about the health risks from continuing to work during the shutdown while the State is experiencing a significant uptick in Covid-19 related infections within the last week.


Pursuant to the update, only construction workers working on essential construction projects may continue working. Essential projects include construction of:

  • Roads

  • Bridges

  • Utilities

  • Hospitals or health care facilities

  • Affordable housing

  • Homeless shelters

  • Emergency construction projects

Companies operating sites require adherence to established social and physical distancing guidelines in all instances, including while riding in elevators, taking meals, and during the entry/exit of the construction site. Worksites unable to maintain best practices must close, and the enforcement of the guidelines under Executive Order 202.6 is provided by the State in coordination with the local government.

Construction firms should be aware that guidelines under 202.6 are subject to change at any time. Employers who do not abide by the Executive Order are subject to significant penalties, including fines of up to $10,000 per violation. Additionally, the updated workplace restrictions do not apply to a single worker who is the sole employee on a construction site.


The updates to Executive Order 202.6 are effective immediately. Any questions or need for clarification should be directed to the Empire State Development Corporation. The updated version of Executive Order 202.6 can be found at https://esd.ny.gov/guidance-executive-order-2026


If you are an owner of a construction company seeking guidance as to how the new rules and restrictions may affect you and your workforce, please give one of our attorneys a call. Our firm has extensive experience counseling construction firms on various labor and employment matters. If you have any questions about this Legal Briefing, please contact any member of the firm at (585) 730-4773.

This Legal Briefing is intended for general informational and educational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice or counsel. The substance of this Legal Briefing is not intended to cover all legal issues or developments regarding the matter. Please consult with an attorney to ascertain how these new developments may relate to you or your business. © 2020 Law Offices of Pullano & Farrow PLLC


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