Essential Workers

Who Are Considered Essential Workers in Texas?

Earlier this year, the COVID-19 pandemic took the country by storm, quickly spreading across the United States. According to the most recent statistics, there have been over 1,200,000 cases of COVID-19 in the United States, and over 72,000 Americans have lost their lives. Of those, nearly 35,000 cases were in Texas, and nearly 1,000 Texans have died from complications related to the novel coronavirus.

In the wake of the crisis, Governor Abbott ordered a state-wide stay-at-home order. The order mandated the closure of schools as well as those businesses deemed non-essential. However, there has been confusion about what businesses are considered “essential.” Those employees who are “essential” may be required to come into work, despite the clear dangers presented by COVID-19.

While each state is able to determine the extent of a stay-at-home order, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) provides guidance regarding what businesses and organizations are considered essential. Governor Abbott’s order includes the entirety of the Department of Homeland Security’s list, as well as a few additional businesses and organizations.

Below is a list of many of the more common employment positions that are considered essential under DHS guidance:

Healthcare

  • Any position that provides COVID-19 testing, including workers who are researching vaccines and other related tests
  • Caregivers, including doctors, nurses, physician assistants, psychologists, pharmacists, occupational therapists, social workers, pathologists
  • Hospital and laboratory personnel, including support staff such as accountants, administrators, food service, housekeeping, information technology, nutritionists and respiratory therapists
  • Workers in other medical facilities, including ambulatory health and surgical centers, blood banks, mental health clinics, outpatient rehabilitation facilities, home health care, hospice, and residential psychiatric facilities
  • Manufacturers, technicians and warehouse operators, distributors of medical equipment, including personal protective equipment, medical gases, pharmaceuticals, blood and blood products, vaccines, testing materials, laboratory supplies, cleaning and sanitizing, disinfecting or sterilization supplies and tissue and paper towel products
  • Public health workers including those who compile, model, analyze and communicate public health information
  • Security workers for other essential businesses
  • Workers who provide food, shelter and other services to those in need

Law enforcement

  • Police officers
  • 911 operators
  • Emergency medical technicians (EMTs)
  • Other emergency management employees, including fire fighters and corrections officers

Food and agriculture

  • Workers supporting grocery stores, pharmacies and other retail establishments that sell food products
  • Restaurant workers
  • Employees of food manufacturers, including food processing, slaughterhouses and beverage production facilities
  • Farmworkers, including those employed in the manufacture of animal feed and veterinary drugs, truck drivers and other delivery employees
  • Sanitation workers

Utilities

  • Employees who work to provide electricity
  • Nuclear power plant employees
  • Petroleum workers, including those involved in product storage, refining, drilling and offshore operations
  • Natural gas workers
  • Employees needed to operate and maintain public and private drinking water and wastewater/drainage infrastructure, including operational staff, repair workers and chemical disinfectant suppliers

Transportation

  • Logistics workers
  • Mass transit operators and support staff
  • Maritime transportation workers
  • Hazmat truck drivers
  • Postal employees
  • Moving company employees
  • Airline workers
  • Maintenance positions

Public works

  • Road and bridge inspectors
  • Construction workers involved in projects related to necessary infrastructure
  • Waste removal employees
  • Workers who support the operation, maintenance and public safety of state parks, forests, wildlife management areas, water supply protection lands and other critical natural resources

Communications

  • Workers involved in the maintenance of communications technology, including internet and broadband service providers
  • Workers who support radio, television and the media, including reporters and technicians
  • Installation, maintenance and repair technicians that establish, support or repair service as needed
  • Information technology workers

Other essential positions

  • Election employees
  • Building inspectors
  • Security staff who work with other essential businesses
  • Weather forecasters
  • Hotel workers
  • Critical government workers
  • Construction Workers who support the construction, operation, inspection, and maintenance of construction sites and construction projects (including housing construction)
  • Workers in recovery housing
  • Professional services, including:
    • Lawyers
    • Accountants
    • Human resources
  • Commercial retail stores that supply other essential businesses
  • Laundromats
  • Workers at places of worship
  • Bank employees
  • Chemical manufacturers
  • Defense contractors

A complete list of the DHS essential businesses and organizations can be found here.

In addition to the above, Governor Abbott’s stay-at-home order allows church services, provided they are “conducted consistent with the Guidelines from the President and the CDC by practicing good hygiene, environmental cleanliness, and sanitation, and by implementing social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19.” Other businesses and organizations that were not included in the above list can apply for determination from The Texas Division of Emergency Management.

Certain business and organization have specifically been determined not to be essential, including:

  • Cosmetology Salons
  • Gyms
  • Massage Establishments
  • Tattoo Studios
  • Piercing Studios
  • Bars
  • Public Swimming Pools
  • Interactive Amusement Venues
  • Eating and Drinking at Restaurants and Food Courts

On May 1, 2020, Governor Abbott lifted portions of the state’s stay-at-home order. However, a Harris County judge extended the stay-at-home order for Harris County residents and business. Under the Governor’s new relaxed order, certain retail establishments, movie theaters, shopping malls, museums, libraries, golf courses and local government offices can open. Some of these businesses and organizations will be required to limit occupancy to 25 percent of the facility’s typical maximum occupancy.

Notwithstanding the Governor’s decision to reopen parts of the Texas economy, the CDC has provided guidance to keep workers and customers safe, including:

  • Considering options to increase physical space between employees and customers such as opening a drive- through, erecting partitions, and marking floors to guide spacing at least six feet apart.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces frequently touched by multiple people, including door handles, desks, phones, light switches and faucets.
  • Assigning a person to rotate throughout the workplace to clean and disinfect surfaces.
  • Scheduling handwashing breaks so employees can wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Scheduling a relief person to give cashiers and service desk workers an opportunity to wash their hands.
  • Providing employees with cloth face masks.
  • Encouraging employees who feel sick to stay at home.
  • Maintaining a social distance of six feet whenever possible.
  • Avoiding non-essential travel.
  • Minimizing the use of cash, credit cards and mobile devices.
  • Encouraging employees avoid touching their mouth, eyes and nose.

Unfortunately, not all Texas employers follow these recommendations. And, due to the fact that Texas was one of the last states to issue a shelter-in-place order. Employers who fail to take these recommendations seriously put employees at a heightened risk of contracting COVID-19.

Employees who have contracted COVID-19 should reach out to one of the dedicated Texas personal injury attorney to discuss their options. Employees who have contracted COVID-19 may be eligible for compensation for their injuries, either through a Texas workers’ compensation claim or Texas personal injury lawsuit.

Contact a Houston Essential Worker Workplace Injury Law Firm

Texas personal law can be complex, especially given the unprecedented situation the state is currently facing. The attorneys at The de la Garza Law Group are here to help you and your family through this challenging time. We proudly represent Texas essential employees and medical workers who have contracted COVID-19 while on the job, either through a workers’ compensation claim or a personal injury claim.

At The de la Garza Law Group, our team of dedicated Houston personal injury lawyers is dedicated to helping clients obtain compensation for their injuries. We understand that your emotional and financial wellbeing are at stake after a COVID-19 diagnosis, and we will do everything we can to help. We offer all clients a free, no-obligation consultation in which we will provide an honest and thorough assessment of your case. To learn more, call 713-804-8670, or call toll-free at 844-784-1010. We proudly represent clients throughout Harris County, Fort Bend County and Montgomery County, including in the Woodlands, Pearland and Sugar Land. 

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