A New Dispute Resolution Commission Created to Interpret Essential Business

In the amended Stay at Home Order (Order) issued on April 2, 2020, a Dispute Resolution Commission was created to resolve disputes regarding what is or is not an essential business. Paragraph 23 of the Order states:

If any local health department issues a determination under Section 17 of this Order that is in conflict with a determination issued by a different local health department, then the conflict may be submitted to the ODH by either of the local health departments or an entity or person subject to the determination. A Dispute Resolution Commission appointed by the Director of Health shall review the conflict and make a determination as to the application of this Order to the conflict. The decision of the Dispute Resolution Commission shall be final.

Section or Paragraph 17 is the enforcement language of the Order and concludes with this language:

To the extent any public official enforcing this Order has questions regarding what services are prohibited under this Order, the Director of Health hereby delegates to local health departments the authority to answer questions in writing and consistent with this Order, but does not require local health departments to provide advisory opinions to nongovernmental entities.

Director Acton appointed Lydia Mihalik, Director of the Ohio Development Services Agency, Sheryl Maxfield, Director of the Ohio Department of Commerce and Sam Randazzo, Chair of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, to this body.  The Commission met for the first time on April 8, 2020 to review and resolve five matters brought to it by four pet grooming businesses and a business selling CBD products. The Commission ruled that all five businesses were not essential businesses under the Order. On April 9, 2020, the Commission determined in three rulings that the Summit and Cuyahoga (involved in two of the three rulings) departments of health properly interpreted that a car wash is an essential business if it meets certain guidelines and business practices to comply with the requirements of the Order. The rulings also determined that a government contractor providing services to first responder vehicles is essential as long as employees maintain social distancing and comply with other requirements set forth in the Order.

If a business does find itself in a dispute with local officials on the interpretation of the Stay at Home Order, there is an electronic form on the Dispute Resolution Commission webpage to bring the dispute before the Commission. That page can be found here.

Remember that the decisions of the Dispute Resolution Commission are final and cannot be appealed.