Minnesota Governor Tim Walz has many executive orders in place regarding COVID-19. One requires that all businesses establish a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan (C19PP). While some executive orders may be hard or impossible to enforce, the state expects all businesses to voluntarily comply with the order to create and implement a C19PP. It will also enforce it by taking the following steps.
Enforcement authority and penalties
The state can and will take the following actions to protect workers:
- Business owners cannot encourage or require employees, contractors, vendors, interns or volunteers to violate the C19PP. Doing so is a gross misdemeanor with a potential fine of up to $3,000 and imprisonment of up to one year.
- The attorney general, as well as attorneys for municipalities, may seek injunctive relief for violations of the C19PP, which means that they can force the business to follow the order. This includes penalties of up to $25,000 per incident.
- The state and local licensing and regulatory agencies can inspect a business for compliance with the C19PP and other codes. These agencies can draw upon existing tools for enforcement to bring the company into compliance.
- All Minnesota Occupational Safety & Health Agency (MNOSHA), Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines are also enforceable as applied to workers and owners. This could result in the closure of a business for such violations as unsafe distancing or hygiene.
- Employers cannot retaliate against employees who report the employer for safety or health concerns.
- Employees may qualify for unemployment benefits if they quit their job because of safety concerns related to the owner’s failure to implement a C19PP. Still, there must be a reasonable opportunity to implement the improvement.
Workers deserve safe conditions
Employers must take every reasonable precaution for protecting the health and safety of the workers. Those workers who feel forced to work or punished for voicing safety concerns should report the employer’s actions, but it also may be necessary to file for a workers’ compensation or personal injury claim against the company.