Yesterday, March 25, Governor Walz announced the Stay-at-Home Executive Order for Minnesota, restricting the operation of “non-critical businesses” in order to control the spread of the coronavirus. The order goes into effect Friday, March 27, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. and extends through Friday, April 10, 2020 at 5 p.m.
What Does the Order Mean for Businesses?
In short, only businesses deemed a critical service may continue operations that require their workers to travel outside their home. Non-critical businesses that have teleworking capabilities may continue operations by arranging for their employees to work from home.
The guidance includes several resources for businesses to use in assessing their eligibility for the exemption, including a link to an online form for requesting clarification from the government >
Minnesota businesses should review the full Stay-at-Home Executive Order to determine if their operation is considered part of a "Critical Sector" and plan their response accordingly, including employee communications.
Essential (Critical) Worker Letter: While not specifically required by the order, critical employers with workers who will be traveling outside of their home for work may issue their employees a letter documenting their status as a worker in a "Critical Sector." Employers should instruct those workers to keep that documentation on their person for use if they are stopped by the authorities. Here's a template of a letter an employer may use >
Unemployment Insurance: Direct your employees who are unable to work because of the Stay-at-Home Order to apply for Unemployment Insurance benefits at uimn.org. Earlier this month, in an effort to support the many Minnesotans who are affected by Governor Walz’s order to close bars, restaurants and other places of public amusement, the Governor also signed Executive Order 20-05 to strengthen Minnesota’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund and ensure that workers who are not able to work as a result of COVID-19 have benefits available. Specifically, this Executive Order will waive the employer surcharge and allow the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development to pay unemployment benefits immediately, providing fast relief to employees who need it.
While not specifically referenced in the Stay-at-Home Order, our interpretation and that of our partners at Synergy Human Resources is that this order related to unemployment benefits stands in relation to the Stay-at-Home Order unless the Governor issues contradictory guidance.
Workplace Posters Required by DOL: Employers small and large are required to post or distribute the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) Employee Rights notification poster – though the DOL has not indicated a deadline for this. The poster can be found here > The poster will be updated as necessary based on laws that may change and to provide more clarity if necessary. As a result, employers may decide to wait until March 31 to move forward with this requirement. If updated, the updated poster can be found under the “Posters” section on the DOL’s COVID-19 and the American Workplace webpage. Here are important Q&As from the DOL related to posting FFCRA posters >
What if Your Business Has Not Been Specified as Critical?
Q: If my business or a part of it has not been specified as “Critical” in the government order, can I maintain a few limited operations other than through telecommuting from home?
A: For now, at least in Minnesota, this question has not been answered. It is important for our clients to know, that it is our opinion and that of our legal partners at Synergy Human Resources that maintaining a reasonable and very limited operation that is essential and critical to the viability of the business is a practical approach to complying with the order. A number of other states have addressed this question in their similar orders. Here is what the California order said:
For the purposes of this Order, “Minimum Basic Operations” include the following, provided that employees comply with Social Distancing Requirements as defined in this Section, to the extent possible, while carrying out such operations: i. The minimum necessary activities to maintain the value of the business’s inventory, ensure security, process payroll and employee benefits, or for related functions. ii. The minimum necessary activities to facilitate employees of the business being able to continue to work remotely from their residences.
IMPORTANT: As always, we at North Risk Partners and our legal partners at Synergy Human Resources have to add the caveat that we have not been able to verify this guidance related to “Minimum Basic Operations” from a government source in Minnesota at this time.
According to the #StayHomeMN Frequently Asked Questions on the Governor’s website: Minnesotans are urged to voluntarily comply with this Executive Order. The state is working with local law enforcement to support the order.
The order also states: Pursuant to Minnesota Statutes 2019, section 12.45, a person who willfully violates this Executive Order is guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction must be punished by a fine not to exceed $1,000 or by imprisonment for not more than 90 days.
Need Additional Help?
If you have specific questions, contact us and if needed we can connect you with our HR and legal partners at Synergy Human Resources.
Our Mission of Service
Insurance agencies have been granted an exemption as a critical sector under the executive order.
Our team at North Risk Partners will continue to monitor regulatory updates and guidance related to the COVID-19 outbreak and share information as it becomes available. We are here to help our clients and other businesses in our communities through this and face the risk of this virus head on, which to us is about helping you proactively control what you can control with facts and evidence-based information. Thank you to all for doing your part to help protect our communities by controlling the spread of COVID-19.
If you have questions related to this update, please contact your North Risk Partners advisor. Don’t have an advisor? No problem. We’ll help you find one.
This regulatory update is not intended to be exhaustive nor should any discussion or opinions be construed as legal advice. Readers should contact legal counsel for legal advice.