Austin Mayor Issues Order Regarding Health and Safety Policies for Business Employees and Patrons

June 18, 2020 | Insights

By Matt Dow, Alicia Duleba, Kate Goodrich, Gary Fowler, Lionel Schooler, & Brooke Leondar

– June 23, 2020

Last night on Monday, June 22, Austin Mayor Steve Adler issued a new citywide order titled “Stay Home, Mask and Otherwise Be Safe.” It expands the city of Austin’s June 15th order and focuses on enforcement for businesses as they enforce COVID-19-related regulations, including requiring all businesses to enforce the wearing of face coverings and not just have a safety plan. City officials continue to urge social distancing and hygiene practices to attempt to mitigate the spread of coronavirus.

The “Stay Home, Mask and Otherwise Be Safe” order includes parts of the Health & Safety for Businesses order, issued on June 17, which directs all businesses to implement a health and safety plan related to COVID-19 by today—June 23. Austin’s 21-page order includes a requirement for businesses of all kinds, including nonprofits, to require all employees and customers over the age of six to wear face coverings in most circumstances.

Visit the City of Austin’s COVID-19 Shareable Information & Required Signage page under “Business Face Covering Signage” for printable flyers »

The updated Austin order also includes the following directives:

  • If someone within a household tests positive for COVID-19 or is awaiting results, the entire household is ordered to isolate and not travel outside the Austin unless to seek medical attention or upon Austin Public Health approval. [Section 1]
  • While the City of Austin is declared to be in a Stage 4 Alert (or higher), all business establishments reopened by the Governor’s Orders (including but not limited to GA-23 and/or GA-26) are strongly encouraged to operate at a capacity less than otherwise permitted to make it more feasible for customers and staff to maintain proper social distancing within their establishment, and to provide services remotely or in a manner maximizing social distancing (e. g., curb-side pickup, delivery, etc.) as much as possible. [Section 6]
  • All city-related deadlines and expiration dates for site plans, subdivisions, zoning, building permits and similar development applications or permits are extended until Aug. 15 or the date they would have normally expired, whichever is later. [Section 7]
  • A manufacturer that retools its business for the primary purpose of manufacturing and producing ventilators, masks, personal protective equipment, or any supplies necessary for Healthcare Operations and Critical Infrastructure may apply for a temporary permit or temporary change of use permit for such manufacturing. The Building Official may suspend any City ordinance, order or regulation which would prevent a manufacturer from retooling its business to produce such equipment in the official’s sole discretion, and the official’s decision on approving the permit is final. [Section 7]
  • Any entity or person performing or obtaining testing for coronavirus must provide daily updates to the City of Austin. [Section 8]
  • Retail and restaurant entities are encouraged to maintain a voluntary activity log of customers and staff, when reasonable, including their contact information and the dates and times they were present in the establishment. These logs are to be maintained for one month only and are property of the business, not the city. The logs are to be used by public health authorities for contract tracing when needed and not for law enforcement purposes. [Section 9]

Peace officers, City of Austin Code Department inspectors, and the Office of the Austin Fire Marshal are authorized to enforce the mayor’s orders. A criminal violation is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $1,000, but not by confinement. Each day a violation occurs is a separate offense. Pursuant to the governor’s order, criminal penalties can only be imposed upon businesses and not individuals, for face covering violations.

Austin-Travis County residents are still directed to continue practicing social distancing, hygiene, and face covering behaviors under County and City Orders, including Austin’s “Stay Home Save Lives Order,” which was adopted on June 15. In addition to hygiene guidelines, these orders state that social gatherings up to 10 people should be avoided or minimized, and socializing in groups of 10+ individuals outside of the same household are prohibited.

Both the Travis County Order and the City of Austin order are set to expire August 15, unless extended or modified.

– June 18, 2020

Austin Mayor Steve Adler issued an order on Wednesday, June 17, 2020, that mandates all Austin businesses must develop and implement a safety policy related to COVID-19. This order comes following a clarification from Governor Abbott that his plan to reopen the Texas economy includes maintaining the authority of local governments to require businesses to adopt and enforce their own health policies—including requiring face coverings.

Effective as of June 17, 2020, and continuing through at least August 15, 2020, all commercial entities in the city of Austin that provide goods or services directly to the public must develop and implement their own COVID-19 health and safety policy. The health and safety policy must require, at a minimum, that all employees and visitors wear face coverings while on the commercial entity’s business premises.

A commercial entity need not require a mask when:

  • The person is alone in a single, separate space—whether indoors or outdoors;
  • The person is among people of the same household or residence —whether indoors or outdoors;
  • The person is eating or drinking in a restaurant or bar;
  • The person is outdoors engaging in an allowed activity while alone, or with only members of the same household or residence, or while maintaining a consistent separation of six feet or more from others engaging in conduct allowed by Governor’s Order GA-26;
  • Wearing a mask poses a safety or health risk.

The city of Austin’s order is intended to be read consistently with GA-26, which expanded businesses’ ability to re-open in Texas, and to impose additional requirements consistent with the Governor’s guidance for businesses. Businesses have until Tuesday, June 23, to have their plan posted and in place.

Jackson Walker’s Labor & Employment section stands ready to assist any commercial entity with development of the Health and Safety Policy required by the city of Austin’s order. If you are in need of assistance, please contact Matt Dow, Alicia Duleba, Kate Goodrich, Gary Fowler, Lonnie Schooler, Brooke Leondar, or any member of Jackson Walker’s Labor & Employment group.

For additional resources designed to help both businesses and consumers adhere to the rapidly-developing state and local laws, please visit Jackson Walker’s Coronavirus microsite.

Related Resources:

Please note: This article and any resources presented on the JW Coronavirus Insights & Resources site are for informational purposes only, do not constitute legal or medical advice, and are not a substitute for legal advice from qualified counsel. The laws of other states and nations may be entirely different from what is described. Your use of these materials does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Jackson Walker. The facts and results of each case will vary, and no particular result can be guaranteed.

In This Story

James Matthew Dow
Partner, Austin

Alicia R. Duleba
Partner, Austin

Kate Goodrich
Governmental Affairs Consultant, Austin

Lionel M. Schooler
Partner, Houston