May 29, 2020

UPDATE: This article was updated on May 29 to reflect additional guidance from the State of Illinois and City of Chicago.


On May 5, 2020, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker announced the "Restore Illinois" phased re-opening plan, and Phase 3 of the plan ("Recovery") is scheduled to begin Friday, May 29. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has similarly committed the City to a phased re-opening plan, "Be Safe. Chicago." However, Chicago's Phase 3 ("Cautiously Reopen") will begin on June 3.

The State of Illinois and City of Chicago have issued Phase 3 guidelines, which we have compiled and organized here. (We considered summarizing them, but we felt that would be redundant. And in an effort to get this important information into your hands as quickly as possible, we opted instead to provide a roadmap to both plans, all in one place for your convenience.)

If you are a business operating in Chicago, be sure to consult both the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago resources applicable to your industry. And, of course, your Much attorneys are here to help you review, strategize, and implement your compliance plan.

State of Illinois Guidelines
The State has created Guidelines and One-Page Toolkits for 10 industries. The Toolkits contain helpful materials, such as downloadable posters, signage, and checklists, and resources for employee training. Though some of the guidance is generally applicable across all industries, there are industry-specific standards with which businesses should familiarize themselves:

City of Chicago Guidelines
Chicago has published industry-specific guidelines across eight industries, as well as various posters and decals in both English and Spanish, and a Business Self-Certification process whereby businesses can broadcast to the community that they are adhering to the City's standards:


This seems like a daunting amount of information to digest! But keep in mind that (unless you are an advisor to businesses spanning multiple industries – like we are), you need to familiarize yourself only with the guidelines that apply to your industry.

One question that has already materialized is whether these guidelines are mandatory or merely recommended. The Illinois guidelines state that employers are "expected and encouraged" to follow them. And Chicago's guidelines are labeled "recommended." That doesn't quite sound mandatory.

That said, the overriding purpose of the guidelines is to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which is in everyone's best interest. And while only time will tell, it's possible that a failure to follow the guidelines could be argued as a violation of OSHA's General Duty Clause (which requires employers to "provide their employees with a workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm"). So to minimize that risk, an employer's "best practice" would be to follow the guidelines to the best of their ability based on what is most practical for their business and operations.

This article contains material of general interest and should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion on any specific facts or circumstances. Under applicable rules of professional conduct, this content may be regarded as attorney advertising.