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July 27, 2020
Employment Law Alert: Face Coverings Now Required at Work

Governor Tim Walz issued a new emergency executive order requiring Minnesotans to wear face masks, effective July 25, 2020 and subject to limited exceptions. The executive order remains in place until expiration of the peacetime emergency.

Here is what companies need to know to comply with the order. 

1.    Face Coverings in the Workplace

All businesses must require employees, customers, guests, vendors, and other visitors to wear face coverings while indoors, with some exceptions.

Exception for Medical Conditions and Disabilities
Individuals with medical conditions, mental health conditions, or disabilities may be exempt from the mask requirement if their condition “makes it unreasonable for the individual to maintain a face covering.” If an employee meets this exemption, then the employer may ask for documentation from the employee’s medical provider of the condition and then provide an accommodation, such as allowing the employee to wear a clear face shield or to work from home. If a customer meets this exemption, the business cannot ask for medical documentation of the condition or disability; instead, the company should offer an accommodation to the customer.

Exception for Social Distancing in Office 
Employees do not need to wear masks when they work alone in an office, room, or cubicle with walls higher than face level and social distancing (i.e. a distance of six feet apart) is maintained. These employees should still carry a face mask for when they move about the office (for example: walking to a restroom or other common area).

Exception for Workplace Hazards
If wearing a face covering would create a job hazard for the employee or others, as determined by local, state or federal regulators or workplace safety and health standards and guidelines, then employees do not need to wear such face coverings.

Exception for Employees Working Outside
Generally, the face-covering requirement only applies to employees working indoors. Employees working outdoors must wear a face covering if they cannot social distance while working.

2.    Update your Preparedness Plan and Post Signage

Employers must update their Preparedness Plans to include the requirement that employees, customers, vendors, and guests wear masks when indoors. Employers must provide the revised plan to their employees. Finally, employers must post signage announcing the mask-wearing requirement (template linked here) at the entrances/exits of their buildings. 

3.    Enforcement

Employers must make reasonable efforts to comply with the executive order. The new executive order authorizes criminal and civil penalties against individuals and businesses (including managers and supervisors) who fail to make reasonable efforts to comply. The Minnesota Department of Labor may enforce this executive order by issuing citations, civil penalties, and orders to close the business. The Minnesota Attorney General’s Office or county attorneys may prosecute non-compliant businesses for a misdemeanor to be punished by a fine of up to $1,000 or 90 days in jail. If there is a pattern of non-compliance, businesses could be subject to fines up to $25,000 per occurrence. Finally, state and local licensing and regulatory agencies may also enforce the face covering requirement.

4.    No Retaliation

The executive order reminds employers that it is illegal to retaliate against employees who raise safety or health concerns about their work environment, including from retaliating against employees who refuse to provide service to a customer who is not wearing a face covering. We are seeing an increase in retaliation claims related to the COVID-19 pandemic and we expect this trend to continue.

Your Labor and Employment team is ready to assist you with any questions you have arising from this executive order. Please reach out to us at any time.

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