On July 22, Governor Walz signed Executive Order 20-81 (Order), which requires people in Minnesota to wear a face covering in certain settings to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Effective July 25, face coverings will be required for individuals in all indoor business and indoor public settings. The Order is broadly written to apply to employees and patrons of a variety of entities, including local governments. As a result, cities should ensure that they implement the order and update their Preparedness Plan required by executive orders.

The Order generally requires that all employees wear face coverings while at work, including outside when social distancing is impossible to maintain. Unless an employee meets one of the specific exemptions listed in the Order, employers must enforce the mandatory face covering requirement. The exemptions in the Order are narrowly tailored and include, but are not limited to:

  • Individuals with a medical condition, mental health condition, or disability that makes it unreasonable for the individual to maintain a face covering. This includes, but is not limited to, individuals who have a medical condition that compromises their ability to breathe, and individuals who are unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a face covering without assistance. These individuals should consider using alternatives to face coverings, including clear face shields, and staying at home as much as possible.
  • Individuals at their workplace when wearing a face covering would create a job hazard for the individual or others, as determined by local, state or federal regulators or workplace safety and health standards and guidelines.
  • When eating or drinking in an indoor business or indoor public space, provided that at least 6 feet of physical distance is maintained between persons who are not members of the same party.
  • While communicating with an individual who is deaf or hard of hearing or has a disability, medical condition, or mental health condition that makes communication with that individual while wearing a face covering difficult, provided that social distancing is maintained to the extent possible between persons who are not members of the same household.
  • When an individual is alone, including when alone in an office, room, cubicle with walls that are higher than face level when social distancing is maintained, vehicle, or the cab of heavy equipment or machinery, or an enclosed work area. In such situations, the individual should still carry a face covering to be prepared for person-to-person interactions and to be used when no longer alone.
  • When a public safety worker is actively engaged in a public safety role, including but not limited to law enforcement, firefighters, or emergency medical personnel, in situations where wearing a face covering would seriously interfere in the performance of their public safety responsibilities.

The Order stipulates that appropriate face coverings may include a paper or disposable face mask, a cloth face mask, a scarf, a bandana, a neck gaiter, or a religious face covering.

The Order does not replace previous executive orders, such as Executive Order 20-74, which more broadly regulate safe working practices during the pandemic. In particular, any worker who can work from home is still required to do so, and employers are still required to comply with the provisions of Executive Order 20-54 (Protecting Workers from Unsafe Working Conditions and Retaliation). The Order does not have an expiration date.

Additional face covering requirements and recommendations can be found here: health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/facecover.html

Finally, the CGMC has updated the COVID-19 Advice & Tools for Cities section on our website (greatermncities.org/resources/covid-19/) to include an updated Preparedness Plan for Local Governments.

If you need any assistance on handling a pandemic in the workplace or any other labor employment advice, please contact labor and employment attorneys Brandon M. Fitzsimmons (bmfitzsimmons@flaherty-hood.com) or Chelsea J. Bodin (cjbodin@flaherty-hood.com) of Flaherty & Hood, P.A.