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On April 23, 2020, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz issued Executive Order 20-40. This Order permits workers in Non-Critical Exempt Businesses who cannot work from home to return to work beginning April 26, 2020. Businesses that plan to bring workers back pursuant to this Order must establish and implement a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan.

What is a Non-Critical Exempt Business?

Under the Executive Order, Non-Critical Exempt Businesses include industrial and manufacturing businesses (to the extent that they were not considered a critical business under the Governor’s previously issued shelter-in-place order) and office-based businesses. Businesses involved in manufacturing, wholesale trade, warehousing, and other places where goods are created fall under this category. Office-based jobs include those where the employees work in an office, at a desk, and are not primarily customer-facing.

Can we require our employees to come into the office instead of working from home?

No. If your employees are currently able to perform their work from home, you may not require them to come into the office. All employees who can work from home must do so under this Order.

What should our COVID-19 Preparedness Plan include?

Non-Critical Exempt Businesses that reopen or bring employees back to work under this Order must develop and implement a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan in order to meet OSHA Standards and the Minnesota Department of Health and CDC’s guidelines in their workplaces. The Plan should contain policies involving the following elements:

  • Require work from home whenever possible.

  • Ensure that sick workers stay home. Employers must include some form of health screening that prevents sick workers from entering the workplace.

  • Social distancing.

  • Employee hygiene and source control.

  • Cleaning and disinfection protocols.

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development has released a template and additional information about the guidelines. You can find that information here.

What do we do with the Plan once we have developed it?

In an effort to affirm commitment to implementing and following the Plan, senior management responsible for implementing the plan must sign and certify it. Then, the Plan must be provided to all workers and posted at the workplace in conspicuous locations. If physical posting is impractical, electronic posting is sufficient. You do not need to submit the plan for pre-approval, but you must make it available upon request to regulatory authorities and public safety officers.

How do we make sure our workers comply with the Plan?

Workers must be trained on how to comply with the Plan. The training should be easy to understand and available in the appropriate languages for the workers. Employers should take steps to supervise their workers and ensure that they are complying with the plan. Training must be documented and made available to regulatory authorities and public safety officers upon request.

What happens if we don’t comply?

Upon receiving a complaint, the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry will determine if the Plan complies with OSHA standards and MDH and CDC guidelines. The DLI may issue citations and civil penalties, or order closures, if businesses are found to be operating under unsafe or unhealthy conditions, and it may penalize businesses that retaliate against employees who raise health or safety concerns. Additionally, any business owner, manager, or supervisor who requires or encourages any of their employees to violate the Order can be found guilty of a gross misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $3,000 and/or up to a year of imprisonment. Likewise, workers who violate the Order can be found guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and/or up to 90 days imprisonment.

Going Forward

As life starts returning to normal, it is likely other states throughout the country will adopt policies similar to Minnesota’s. It is important for employers to stay up to date on the policies in place in the locations where they do business.

myHRgenius and Thompson Coe continue to monitor these new HR laws and their impact on employers and employees throughout the country.  For more information, including webinars, primers, summaries and podcasts on COVID-19 go to or or call 651-389-5080.

Thompson Coe and myHRgenius Tip of the Week is not intended as a solicitation, does not constitute legal advice, and does not establish an attorney-client relationship.


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Kevin M. Mosher

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