A Guide to Essential Businesses in New York

A Guide to Essential Businesses in New York

As the number of Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases and fatalities continue to rise across the country, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has executed an Executive Order, named “New York State on Pause” requiring all non-essential businesses statewide to shut down all in-office personnel functions. These employment reduction requirements apply equally to for-profit and not-for-profit businesses.

What is an “Essential Business”?

An Essential Business is “any business providing products or services that are required to maintain the health, welfare and safety of the citizens of New York State.” Some examples of Essential Businesses are health care facilities, public and private utility companies, transportation companies, grocers, convenience stores, food processing companies, financial institutions, news media, construction companies and businesses that provide basic necessities to economically disadvantaged populations. You can find a complete list of businesses and industries deemed to be Essential here.

What if my business is considered an Essential Business?

If your business is listed on the Empire State Development (ESD) website (link above), then your business is exempt from the employment reduction provisions of the New York State on Pause Executive Order. You do not need to contact the state to let them know you will continue operations. Your business, however, must operate with only those employees that are necessary to provide the products and services that are essential. In other words, Essential Businesses are still required to utilize telecommuting or work from home procedures to the greatest extent possible.

For example, if your business manufactures medical personal protective equipment (PPE) and toy unicorns, your business is exempt from the employment reduction requirements of the Executive Order to the extent that employees are needed to maintain the production capacity of the PPE. On the other hand, the employees responsible for the production of the toy unicorns would be subject to the workforce reduction requirements. In addition, the employees needed to support the production of the PPE (accounting, legal, human resources, etc.) are still required to utilize telecommuting or work from home procedures to the greatest extent possible.

What if my business is not on the Essential Business List but my business believes it should be considered an Essential Business, can I petition to become an Essential Business?

Yes, you can make a request the ESD to be designated an Essential Business by clicking here. It is important to make sure that you aren’t already designated as an Essential Business by reviewing the list thoroughly.

Are all business eligible for an Essential Business Designation?

No. Gyms, movie theaters, casinos, auditoriums, concerts, conferences, worship services, sporting events, and physical fitness centers are not eligible for designation as an Essential Business. Please note, houses of worship are not ordered to close but New York State has strongly recommended for them not to hold congregate services and to follow social distancing guidelines.

We Are Here for You

The laws and mandates are rapidly changing in response to Coronavirus. The Browne Firm is dedicated to helping our clients navigate challenges as seamlessly as possible. We can help you maintain compliance with New York State Do not hesitate to reach out to our office if you need guidance regarding how to comply with federal and local restrictions while moving your business through these difficult times. You are not alone. We are all in this together.


Guidance for Determining Whether a Business Enterprise is Subject To A Workforce Reduction Under Recent Executive Orders, Empire State Development. https://esd.ny.gov/guidance-executive-order-2026

Author Bio

Danielle Browne is the founder and managing attorney of The Browne Firm, a New York-based estate planning and business law firm. Danielle leverages her background, serving as general counsel for a Fortune 500 company and working with startups to represent clients in entity formation, intellectual property protection, contract drafting, estate planning, and more.

With more than ten years of experience as an attorney and business executive, she has represented clients ranging from entrepreneurs and small businesses to artists and Fortune 500 companies. Danielle received her Juris Doctor cum laude from the University of Miami School of Law and is licensed to practice in New York. She has received numerous honors for her work, including being named a 2015 Future Leader by the WNBA President while serving as general counsel for the Atlanta Dream.

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