Minnesota’s Mask Mandate: What Employers Need to Know

by | Jul 28, 2020 | COVID-19, Employer Rights

By Vanessa Lystad and Tatiana Hamilton

Effective July 24, all Minnesotans are required to wear a face covering in indoor businesses and indoor public settings per the Executive Order of Governor Walz. This article explains how this Order affects businesses within Minnesota.

Mandatory Face Coverings

In general, the Order requires Minnesotans to wear a face covering in an indoor business, which is defined to include any private sector, public sector, non-profit, or government entity that employs workers. “Workers” include owners, proprietors, employees, contractors, vendors, volunteers, and interns. Workers must also wear face coverings outdoors when it is not possible to maintain social distancing.

Some individuals, however, are exempt from this requirement, such as those with a medical condition or disability that makes it unreasonable for the individual to wear a face covering. The Order states that these exempted individuals should nonetheless consider alternatives, such as using a clear face shield or staying at home. Instances where a mask would result in a job hazard to the individual or others in the workplace are also exempt.

Temporary Removal of Face Coverings

There are some instances when a worker, customer, or visitor may temporarily remove a face covering in a business. For example, a person may temporarily remove their face covering when eating or drinking indoors, so long as social distancing (i.e. at least 6 feet) can be maintained between others. Further, if an individual is alone in an office, room, or cubicle with walls higher than face level and where social distancing is maintained, the individual may remove the face covering. Individuals may also temporarily remove face coverings to verify their identity, if necessary to communicate with someone with a disability, or if an individual is receiving a service (such as a dental procedure) that cannot be performed with a face covering.

Business Implementation Requirements

To comply with the Order, Minnesota businesses must take a few additional steps.  First, they must update their COVID-19 Preparedness Plan to include face covering requirements, inform workers how the plan has been updated, and make the revised plan available to workers.  Second, businesses must post signs visible to all persons, including workers, customers, and visitors, instructing them to wear face coverings.

If a worker or customer states they have a medical condition or disability that makes it unreasonable for them to wear a face covering, the business must provide an accommodation. For customers, the business may not ask them for proof of their medical condition or disability. For workers, the business must follow applicable laws (e.g. the Americans with Disabilities Act and Minnesota Human Rights Act) with regard to requesting documentation on the condition or disability.

Businesses are not required to enforce the Order if it is unsafe to do so, nor does the Order give the business the power to restrain, assault, or physically remove workers or customers who refuse to comply.

Violations

In short, businesses must: (1) ensure their workers are wearing face coverings; (2) update their COVID-19 Preparedness Plan to address face covering requirements; (3) post signs instructing everyone to wear face coverings; and (4) make reasonable efforts to enforce the Order with respect to customers and visitors.

Any business owner, manager, or supervisor who fails to comply with the Order is guilty of a misdemeanor and, if convicted, may be fined up to $1,000 or imprisoned up to 90 days. The Attorney General, as well as city and county attorneys, may also seek remedies, such as penalties up to $25,000 per occurrence and injunctive relief.

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