Last Thursday, April 23, Governor Walz made the announcement that workers in non-critical sectors can begin to return to work, under tight restrictions. While the order does not get everyone back to work, it returns those who work in sectors where it is easier to socially distance from one another and avoid customer interaction.
The affected sectors include the following businesses:
- Industrial and manufacturing: wholesale trade, warehousing, or places where goods are in the process of being created. Customer-facing retail environments are not included in this category. The Department of Employment and Economic Development provided greater clarity to the definition, stating that industrial businesses include “agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting…mining, construction, utilities and manufacturing. Wholesale trade and warehousing also qualify”.
- Office-based: DEED defines office-based businesses as places of employment in which workers do their work within an office space where people primarily do their work at their desk and whose work is primarily not customer facing.
On April 30, the Governor announced that retail establishments could be open for curbside pickup and delivery starting May 4. DEED defines the covered businesses as those that sell, rent, maintain and repair goods that can be picked up outside without entering the place of business and only calls for limited interaction between employees and customers.
Employees of these businesses can interact with co-workers while following social distancing guidelines, conduct virtual meetings with others, and work at workstations where there is adequate space between employees to observe social distancing. Employees are not yet allowed to conduct customer visits in customer workplaces, invite customers into the workplace, conduct meetings in conference rooms without adequate space, or work side-by-side with co-workers.
Before businesses are allowed to re-open for workers, it is necessary for the business to establish and implement a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan that implements both Minnesota OSHA standards along with Minnesota Department of Health and CDC guidelines within workplaces. The plans must include the following content:
- Require work from home whenever possible.
- Ensure that sick workers stay home via policies and procedures, and implement health screening to keep sick workers from reporting to work.
- Establish social distancing policies and procedures.
- Establish hygiene and source control policies for workers.
- Establish cleaning and disinfection protocols for areas within the workplace.
The plan must be signed by senior management affirming its commitment to the plan, disseminate the plan so it can be readily reviewed by workers (not just e-mail), provide training on the preparedness plan, work together to ensure compliance, and make the plan available to public safety officers upon request. Employers are subject to citations, civil penalties, or closure orders if they maintain unsafe or unhealthy conditions, and may be penalized if they retaliate against employees who raise safety concerns. Civil penalties for violations of the order can reach up to $25,000 per occurrence.
These orders show that Minnesota is moving closer to opening back up for more business. Minnesota remains on the lower end of states for the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 as well as the number of deaths caused by the virus. The Governor clearly does not want to reverse any of the positive steps that have been taken by opening the state up too early, as evidenced by his extension of the stay-at-home order until May 18, 2020.
The restrictions on businesses are getting lighter as days go by, but, at least in Minnesota, the government is incredibly concerned about the possibility of opening the floodgates to the reopening of businesses across the state. If you or your organization are in need of assistance in getting back to business, contact the Wiley Law Office, for legal advice that works.