In the Face of a Pandemic, State of Minnesota Adds Emergency Leave Policy for Employees

The global health crisis has brought unprecedented changes to the country, both at home and at work.  With the announcement of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Governor of Minnesota has issues a number of executive orders in effort to slow the spread of the virus, leading to Tuesday’s Emergency Executive Order 20-07, “Providing for State Workforce Needs During the COVID-19 Peacetime Emergency.”

When a peacetime emergency is declared, the Governor of Minnesota has the power to alter or adjust “the working hours, workdays and work week” of executive branch employees, as well as modify the annual and sick leave provisions an payroll laws regarding all state employees in order to minimize the impact of the emergency.  The Governor also has the power to direct the work of personnel and to rescind necessary orders and rules “without adherence to existing limitations in collective bargaining agreements, memoranda of understanding, [and] compensation plans.”  During this time, the Governor’s orders have the rule of law.  Any rules that run contrary to the Governor’s directions are suspended.

With that, the Governor introduced a new leave policy for employees of the executive branch, which includes all employees of agencies in the executive branch, employees of the Minnesota State Retirement System, PERA, the Teacher’s Retirement Association and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system.


The Governor’s order provides for paid leave to employees unable to report to work and unable to telework for an unlimited period of time for the following reasons:

  • School or Day Care Closures
  • Health Purposes
  • Family Caregiving
  • Isolation or Quarantine
  • Agency Closure

Beyond the provided leaves, the Governor also waived the mandatory waiting period for new employees to be on the State’s insurance plan and increased the flexibility of the Commissioner of Minnesota Management and Budget to respond to the evolving health crisis.

Minn. Stat. §12.21 gives the Governor incredible power to modify the terms of employment for state employees and make those modifications law during declared emergencies.  The statute is broader than the statute pertaining to local political subdivisions of the state, which simply allows cities, counties and other subdivisions the ability to more quickly acquire aide and bypass certain procedures for entering into contracts, acquiring equipment, and the performance of public work.  Most importantly for public employers, it does not give local jurisdictions the authority to bypass collective bargaining agreements if they are deemed to impede public safety.

The Governor’s order is an incredibly progressive stance taken by the one person in the state with the power to do so of his own accord.  If you or your organization need assistance in navigating the declared emergency with your employees, contact the Wiley Law Office for advice that works.

Check in next week as we provide details the federal paid leave provisions, signed into law March 18, 2020.