Legal Blog

In North Carolina – Is Your Business “Essential” or Not?

Practice Group: Business Law & Transactions

Most of us know that to deal with the Coronavirus pandemic, governments have ordered certain businesses to close. Three or so weeks ago, few imagined that the world would be turned on its head. The global pandemic is a different kind of crisis. Businesses are struggling to determine what they can do, when life might return to any kind of normal and how to get from here to there.

Obviously, most important is to do everything possible to protect yourself, your family, and your employees.

But while doing so:


In North Carolina, anyone who can work at home or remotely and those engaged in certain “essential” businesses and operations. On Friday, March 27, 2020, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper issued Executive Order No. 121 entitled “Stay At Home Order and Strategic Directions For North Carolina In Response to Increasing COVID-19 Cases” effective Monday, March 30, 2020 at 5:00 p.m. The Executive Order will remain in effect for thirty days unless repealed, replaced or rescinded by another applicable Executive Order.

The Executive Order directs that all businesses and operations in the State, except for COVID-19 Essential Businesses and Operations, cease all activities within the State with the exception of certain minimum basic operations as defined below. Section 2 of the Executive Order includes a defined list of Essential Businesses and Operations. The Governor’s Executive Order can be found at

Among the list of COVID-19 Essential Businesses and Operations is any business, not-for-profit organization or educational institution that conducts operations while maintaining certain Social Distancing Requirements between employees and between employees and customers except at the point of sale or purchase. Also included in the Executive Order’s list of Essential Businesses and Operations are those operating in the federal critical infrastructure as outlined by the Department of Homeland Security at

The Executive Order mandates that even Essential Businesses and Operations, to the maximum extent possible, direct employees to work from home or telework and, to the extent practical, maintain Social Distancing Requirements as set forth in the Executive Order.

Businesses excluded from the list of COVID-19 Essential Business and Operations who believe they may be essential may direct requests to be included to the North Carolina Department of Revenue. The NCDOR’s website contains a point of contact and procedure for businesses seeking to be designated as essential at The Executive Order indicates that a business that has made a request to the NCDOR to be included as a COVID-19 Essential Business may continue to operate until that request is acted upon.

Otherwise, businesses not included under the Executive Order as Essential Businesses and Operations shall cease all activities within the State except “Minimum Basic Operations” which include minimum necessary activities to maintain the value of inventory, preserve the condition of the business’s physical plant and equipment, ensure security, process payroll, and employee benefits or related functions and minimum necessary activities to facilitate employees of the business being able to continue to work remotely from their residences.

The Executive Order acknowledges that certain counties and cities within the State may be impacted differently by COVID-19. The Executive Order is not intended to limit or prohibit counties and cities from enacting ordinances and issuing state of emergency declarations that impose greater restrictions or prohibitions if authorized under North Carolina law.

Enforcement of the Executive Order will be by state and local law enforcement officers. A violation is subject to prosecution and punishable as a Class 2 misdemeanor.


Read about our other states including Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, and Virginia.

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Offit Kurman is one of the fastest-growing full-service law firms in the United States. With 14 offices in seven states, and the District of Columbia, and growing by 50% in two years through expansions in New York City and Charlotte, North Carolina, Offit Kurman is well-positioned to meet the legal needs of dynamic businesses and the individuals who own and operate them. For over 30 years, we’ve represented privately held companies and families of wealth throughout their business life cycles.

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