Pennsylvania Federal Judge Strikes Down Key Provisions in Governor Wolf’s COVID-19 Orders

In a decision issued on September 14, 2020, U.S. District Court Judge William S. Stickman IV ruled that certain restrictions ordered by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf to slow the spread of COVID-19 were unconstitutional. Judge Stickman’s decision comes after several other Pennsylvania courts upheld the restrictions as being within Wolf’s authority and courts in other states had upheld similar types of orders.

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With Pennsylvania Non-Competes, As in Life, Timing is Everything

In Pennsylvania, it has long been known that waiting until after the start of employment to have an employee sign a non-competition agreement comes with the real risk that the agreement will be unenforceable for lack of consideration.  Last week, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court provided definitive guidance on the issue in Rullex Co., LLC v. Tel-Stream, Inc., et al., holding that a non-competition agreement entered into after an employee commences employment fails for lack of consideration unless the essential provisions of those restrictions were agreed to before the employee started work.

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The Philadelphia Area Transitions from Red Phase to Yellow, Allowing More Business Activity

On April 22, Governor Tom Wolf outlined a three-phase plan for reopening Pennsylvania businesses, following a color-coded system: Red, Yellow and Green. As the COVID-19 threat continues to slow, each county has been moving gradually through the phases. According to the Commonwealth, the phases are designed to decrease the continued spread of COVID-19 while relaxing restrictions and promoting the resumption of business activity.

Following is a brief description of each phase:

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Pennsylvania Grants Waivers Allowing Non-‘Life-Sustaining’ Businesses to Resume Operations

On March 19, 2020, Governor Tom Wolf ordered all Pennsylvania businesses that are not considered “life-sustaining” to shut down their physical operations by March 21 at 12:01 a.m., which was later amended to March 23, 2020 at 8 a.m. Governor Wolf’s order will remain in effect until further notice. Although there are several industries that are listed as non-life sustaining, the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), has granted several waivers permitting specific businesses in industries that are not life sustaining to continue operating. For example, although construction companies generally must cease construction, they are permitted to construct health care facilities and conduct emergency repairs.

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Pennsylvania to Establish Small Business Loan Program for Businesses Impacted by COVID-19

On March 25, 2020, Governor Tom Wolf announced a $60 million COVID-19 Working Capital Access Program (CWCA), administered by the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority (PIDA), to provide loans of up to $100,000 for small businesses within the Commonwealth adversely impacted by the COVID-19 epidemic.

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Governor Wolf Issues “Stay at Home” Order for Certain Pennsylvania Counties

Updates:

  • 3/27/2020: Governor Wolf has amended his order to include residents of Berks, Butler, Lackawanna, Lancaster, Luzerne, Pike, Wayne, Westmoreland, and York Counties. The amended order is available here.
  • 3/25/2020: Governor Wolf has amended his order to include residents of Northampton and Lehigh Counties. The amended order is available here.
  • 3/24/2020: Governor Wolf has amended his order to include residents of Erie County, in addition to the seven counties previously impacted. The amended order is available here.

Original Post:

Effective Monday, March 23, 2020 at 8:00 p.m., residents in Philadelphia, Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Monroe, and Montgomery counties are required “to stay at home except as needed to access, support or provide life-sustaining business, emergency or government services.”  Residents are permitted to “engage in outdoor activities,” but gatherings are prohibited, and anyone leaving home must practice social distancing and other mitigation efforts.

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