By Kristin LeBre and Teresa M. Thompson
What do I need to know about the Walz Executive Order issued on Friday, June 5, 2020?
Walz Executive Order 20-74 issued on June 5, 2020, means that Minnesota will enter Phase III of the Governor’s Stay Safe Minnesota Plan on June 10, 2020. Moving to Phase III has implications for Minnesotans on both a business level and a personal level.
For businesses looking to additional guidance, here are a few key things to take away from this Order:
- Whether you operate a critical business or non-critical business – the Order requires that any worker who can work from home must continue to do so. This requirement has not changed.
- All critical businesses are required to develop and implement a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan by June 29. This is a new requirement for all critical businesses.
- The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), the Department of Employment and Economic Development, and the Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) will publish “industry guidance” for critical businesses by June 15, 2020. To the extent that critical businesses have not adopted a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan – they should be prepared to develop one once the guidance becomes available.
- The protections noted in Executive Order 20-54 (Protecting Workers from Unsafe Working Conditions and Retaliation) remain in full force and effect. All businesses must conduct work in a manner that adheres to Minnesota OSHA Standards and MDH and CDC Guidelines, including social distancing and hygiene practices.
- The Order stresses that under existing law and authority, DLI may issue citations, civil penalties or closure orders to places of employment with unsafe or unhealthy conditions, and DLI may penalize businesses that retaliate against employees who raise safety and health concerns. Businesses should remain vigilant in enforcing safety measures.
For businesses looking to offer additional services or for individuals seeking to expand their activities, the following requirements apply during Phase III of the Stay Safe MN Plan:
- Effective June 10, 2020, there will be a limited reopening of indoor dining, gyms and entertainment venues. Customers and employees will be either “strongly recommended” or “required” to wear masks and to adhere to social distancing measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
- Occupancy rates will be limited based on risk with an overall maximum occupancy of 250 people.
- Higher education institutions may offer in-person activities or classes of no more than 25 people but only to the extent that the classes cannot be provided through distance learning. Higher education institutions must have a Higher Ed Plan in place.
- Restaurants can begin offering indoor dining while maintaining social distancing, requiring reservations and seating no more than 50 percent capacity.
- Indoor social gatherings can take place with 10 people or less; outdoor social gatherings can take place with 25 people or less.
- Gyms, personal fitness and yoga studios and martial arts may open at 25 percent capacity.
- Indoor entertainment and recreational venues such as theatres, concert halls, bowling alleys, arcades and museums may open at 25 percent capacity.
- Personal services such as salons, tattoo parlors and barbershops may increase occupancy to 50 percent while requiring reservations.
- Outdoor entertainment venues such as sporting events, concerts and theatres may open at 25 percent capacity.
- Places of worship can increase occupancy rates to 50 percent capacity.
In discussing the Order, MDH Commissioner, Jan Malcom, acknowledged that Minnesota faces the likelihood of “many more months” of spread of COVID-19 but says “we must find a way to live with it” and accept a certain level of risk while taking steps to prevent a “wave of cases overwhelming our health care sector.”
In light of the cautionary words by the MDH Commissioner, as businesses re-open or expand operations, they should continue to be mindful of and follow the guidance issued by the CDC, OSHA and any local department of health agency regarding the protection of workers and the public. Having a preparedness plan and incident response plan in place will assist businesses to better respond and react to worker safety issues as well as outbreaks of COVID-19 in the workplace.
Clients who have questions about preparing a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan or a COVID-19 incident response plan for their business or any other employment law issue related to COVID-19 should contact their Fredrikson attorney.