COVID-19 Update – New Executive Orders Signed by Governor Walz as Minnesota Continues Down the Path of Re-Opening Its Economy

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UPDATE: As noted in a previous Legal Alert, Minnesota is in the process of easing certain stay-at-home restrictions as it attempts to re-open its economy.  In continuation of that process, Governor Walz issued Executive Order 20-40 (the “Order”) on April 23, 2020, allowing certain Non-Critical Sector workers to return to work under the condition that employers create plans for and provide a safe work environment. The Order focuses on industrial, manufacturing, and office-based business settings that do not involve interactions with customers or the general public.  The Order provides that beginning on April 27, 2020 workers for Non-Critical Exempt Businesses may return to work once their businesses complete specific requirements defined in the Order.  The Order clarifies these requirements by highlighting the following:

  • The exemptions under the Order apply only to travel to and from workers’ homes or residences and places of work and to work duties that cannot be done at home.  However, travel may also include transportation to and from childcare or school settings as necessary to ensure the safe care of children.
  • The Order does not lift the framework existing in Executive Order 20-33: all workers who can work from home must continue to do so.  It also does not permit other types of travel or “outside the home” activities restricted by the stay-at-home order.
  • The term Non-Critical Exempt Businesses includes: (1) industrial and manufacturing businesses not already exempt by Executive Order 20-33 including wholesale trade, warehousing, and places of employment in which goods are created (customer-facing facets of these businesses are not included); and (2) office-based businesses where workers do their work in an office space, at a desk, and are not customer facing (customer-facing retail environments are also excluded).
  • Each business defined as Non-Critical Exempt must create and implement a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan (“Plan”), providing for implementation of Minnesota OSHA Standards and MDH and CDC Guidelines in their workplaces. At a minimum, each Plan must also address the following:
    • Require work from home whenever possible by ensuring that all workers who are able to work from home continue that practice;
    • Guarantee that sick workers do not come to work by establishing policies and procedures, including health screenings, to prevent sick workers from entering the workplace;
    • Establish social distancing policies and procedures;
    • Establish hygiene and source control policies for workers; and
    • Create cleaning and disinfection protocols for the workplace.
  • The Order also provides a link to an optional Plan template for businesses to use.
  • Senior management responsible for implementing the Plan must certify and affirm their commitment to implement and follow the Plan;
  • Provide the Plan, in writing, to all workers, and post the Plan at each office and business location, so the plan may be reviewed by all workers (electronic posting is permissible);
  • Train workers on the contents of the Plan and procedures associated with it in a manner that is easy to understand and available in language-appropriate and literacy-level formats;
  • Document employee training demonstrating compliance with the Order and provide said documentation to regulatory authorities upon request;
  • Collaborate between workers and employers to ensure compliance with the Plan; and
  • Maintain the Plan and associated material to be made available to regulatory authorities and public safety officers.

Importantly, while the Order eases restrictions and allows more Minnesotans to return to work, Governor Walz stresses that willful violations by workers will result in a misdemeanor, resulting in a fine not to exceed $1,000 or by imprisonment for not more than 90 days if convicted.  Business owners, managers, or supervisors who require or encourage workers to violate the Order will be guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to a fine not to exceed $3,000 or by imprisonment for not more than one year.

Governor Walz also issued Executive Order 20-41 on April 23, 2020, extending the Distance Learning Period established under Executive Order 20-19 through the end of the 2019-2020 school year, and effectively closing schools for the remainder of the academic year.

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