Minnesota Employers Are Given the Green Light to Return to the Office, Subject to Continued Limitations

On March 12, 2021, nearly one year to the day after Minnesota declared a peacetime emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Tim Walz issued Executive Order 21-11, which rolls back certain restrictive measures aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus.

Chief among the changes is a relaxation of the mandate that all employees who are able to work remotely must do so. Commencing on March 25, 2020, pursuant to Executive Order 20-20, Minnesota employees have been required to work remotely whenever they are able. This requirement will cease on April 14, 2021, at 11:59 p.m. Employers are now strongly encouraged to allow Minnesota-based employees to work from home when they are able to do so. Employers are also strongly encouraged to implement reasonable accommodations for those employees who are at-risk for infection or who reside with a household member with an underlying medical condition that has not yet become eligible for vaccination. This softens obligations previously set forth in Executive Orders 20-54 and 20-55 in light of the expanded access to COVID-19 vaccinations.

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COVID-19 Vaccination Planning for Employers: Questions to Consider for Policy and Practice

As COVID-19 vaccines become more widely accessible, and certain localities relax COVID-19 restrictions, employers hoping to ramp up on-site operations or reduce absenteeism face a new challenge: navigating employee vaccination. Employers are evaluating whether to mandate, strongly suggest or simply remain neutral regarding COVID-19 vaccinations and on-site work.

The considerations surrounding workplace vaccination programs are complex. Business justifications and accommodation issues, potential public relations and employee relations pitfalls, the impact of vaccination on workforce safety procedures, litigation risks on multiple fronts — these are just the beginning. To help piece together this business and regulatory puzzle, we have compiled a list of issues organizations should consider as they set policy and communication plans regarding on-site work and COVID-19 vaccines. We have also identified issues to consider with regard to the practical application of any such policy and the development of related communications to employees or others.

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Minnesota Supreme Court Rules That Handbook Policies Can Be Contractual Notwithstanding Disclaimer

On February 3, 2021, the Minnesota Supreme Court decided Hall v. City of Plainview, holding that a general contract disclaimer in an employee handbook did not, as a matter of law, nullify a breach of contract claim with respect to a paid time off (PTO) policy within the handbook. As the Hall Court explained, the PTO policy at issue was sufficiently detailed to create a unilateral employment contract such that the employer would be obligated to follow its terms. The decision reminds employers of the importance of careful planning and drafting when it comes to their PTO policies. In light of the Court’s holding, employers should also review their handbooks for other policies and procedures that could be construed as contracts.

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Minnesota Businesses Should Prepare to ‘Mask Up’ Under New Executive Order

Effective July 25, 2020, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz’s Executive Order 20-81 requires Minnesotans to wear face coverings in indoor business and public settings, as well as when unable to maintain six-foot social distancing outdoors, riding on public transit, and as required by industry-specific guidance.

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Employer COVID-19 Responses May Trigger Additional State and Local Wage Payment, Notice and Other Obligations

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, state and local “stay at home” orders and the resulting financial and business impact, many employers have implemented or are considering a range of workforce planning alternatives to workforce reductions, including moving to a primarily remote workforce, temporary reductions to employee hours or pay (or both), and temporary periods of continued employment without any work or pay (commonly referred to as furloughs). This article addresses some of the frequently asked questions regarding state and local wage payment and notice issues that may arise in connection with such measures.

For the full alert, visit the Faegre Drinker website.