Courts inconsistent on orders relating to COVID-19

By Andrew S. Murphy

Jun. 30, 2020

In the spring, a political campaign committee, a real estate agent and a golf course filed a lawsuit seeking to invalidate Pennsylvania’s stay-at-home order, arguing Gov. Tom Wolf exceeded his statutory authority and that the order infringed on their  constitutional rights to assemble and to equal protection.

The court upheld the order in a 4-3 decision, finding the governor had expansive emergency management powers to address the COVID-19 pandemic, including the authority to order closure of all “non-life-sustaining” businesses in the state in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Finally, the majority rejected the petitioners’ argument that the Executive Order infringed on the petitioners’ constitutional rights.

The three justices who dissented opined that the closure of all “non-life-sustaining” businesses may have exceeded Wolf’s authority. The dissenters would have given the petitioners an opportunity to develop an evidentiary record in a lower court regarding the necessity for the broad scope of the Executive Order.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the petitioners’ challenge, and Wolf subsequently replaced the challenged order with a less restrictive one. Friends of Danny DeVito v. Tom Wolf, No. 68 MM 2020 (Pa. Apr. 13, 2020) 

IMPACT: As the country continues to balance health-related restrictions and reviving the economy, affected businesses may be understandably frustrated by shifting government mandates. But as Friends of Danny DeVito demonstrates, businesses should not expect courts to relieve them of their obligation to comply.

Andrew S. Murphy is an associate at Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP in Chicago.

What’s New at

blog workforce

Come see what we’re building in the world of predictive employee scheduling, superior labor insights and next-gen employee apps. We’re on a mission to automate workforce management for hourly employees and bring productivity, optimization and engagement to the frontline.

Book a call
See the software
workforce news

Related Articles

workforce blog


Minimum Wage by State in 2023 – All You Need to Know

Summary Twenty-three states and D.C. raised their minimum wage rates in 2023, effective January 1.  Thr...

federal law, minimum wage, pay rates, state law, wage law compliance

workforce blog


New Labor Laws Taking Effect in 2023

The new year is fast approaching, and with its arrival comes a host of new labor laws that will impact ...

labor laws, minimum wage, wage and hour law

workforce blog


Wage and Hour Laws in 2022: What Employers Need to Know

Whether a mom-and-pop shop with a handful of employees or a large corporation staffing thousands, compl...

compliance, wage and hour law