Let’s Talk it Over - March 26, 2020

In this issue:
  1. Minnesota’s stay at home order effective Friday, March 27 at 11:59 PM
  2. Minnesota court schedule update

Minnesota Emergency Executive Order 20-20

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz has signed Emergency Executive Order 20-20 “Directing Minnesotans to Stay at Home.” For the full text click here.

Like many other states, the order contains exemptions for “Activities” and “Critical Sectors.” The Critical Sectors include those listed in the Order as well as those listed in the CISA Guidance document. The Order contains 43 categories of exempt activities.

What do the design and construction sectors need to know about this Order?

First, the following personal activities are exempt, meaning you can leave your house to do the following but should practice social distancing:

      • Relocate to a safe home
      • Go to the doctor or hospital
      • Outdoor activities including walking, hiking, running, biking, driving for pleasure, hunting, fishing, going to public parks
      • You can go to the grocery store, liquor store, gas station, laundry, stores to obtain supplies to support working at home and other “Necessary supplies and services.”
      • Essential travel inside or outside of Minnesota
      • Travel to care for family members
      • Homeless individuals may travel between shelters or encampments.
In addition, while all workers are encouraged to work at home if they can, the following business activities are also exempt, meaning they can travel to or from their place of work:
      • Transportation and logistics, including engineers
      • Public works, including construction material suppliers and services necessary to maintain material sources
      • Code enforcement for essential infrastructure
      • Construction and critical trades
      • Legal services, including in support of construction and essential infrastructure
Essential infrastructure includes the following categories in the CISA Guide:
      • Healthcare/public health facilities
      • Energy
      • Water and wastewater
      • Transportation and logistics
      • Public works
      • Critical manufacturing
      • Financial services, including maintaining financial transactions and data centers

If you are involved in design or construction of any of the exempt categories or critical infrastructure, you should consider providing your employees with a letter that confirms they are exempt for purposes of traveling to and from the office and working in the office. Of course, you should confirm that your business is complying with the Order by requiring work at home as much as practical.

Unlike other states, the Minnesota Order does not include an exemption for Minimum Basic Operations for general businesses. In states such as Michigan and Wisconsin, these exemptions are focused on personnel who maintain billing, payroll and employee benefits to allow general businesses to continue to operate. It also includes employee functions necessary to support and maintain the ability of other employees to work from home. This appears to be an oversight by the Minnesota Governor and design and construction related associations are encouraged to ask their lobbyists to seek a clarification on this issue.

Minnesota Courts Update

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz declared a peacetime emergency on March 13, 2020 in response to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19. The Minnesota Supreme Court has so far issued two orders in response—one on March 13th and another on March 20th. The relevant points of those Orders are summarized below. Generally, most lawsuits will continue as normal; however, no trials will be heard before April 22nd and civil hearings will be conducted remotely (video and/or telephone conferencing) or cancelled unless there is an immediate concern to liberty or safety. We will continue to individually notify clients of any changes to their lawsuits and keep you apprised of any new orders from the courts.

District Courts:

  • The courts remain open on a limited basis, and will continue to accept electronic filings in all cases.
  • All civil hearings other than those involving housing/eviction matters when there is a showing of individual or public health or safety at risk, civil commitment, emergency change-of-custody requests, guardianship, and orders for protection, or any case in which the relief requested presents “an immediate liberty concern, or when public or personal safety concerns are paramount,” must be held by Interactive Video Teleconference (ITV) or other video or telephone conferencing to the extent possible.
  • Some matters may also proceed on written submissions only (without oral argument).
  • No new jury trials will start before April 22, 2020, or until further notice of the court, whichever occurs first.

Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court:

  • Hearings will continue as and when scheduled. The courts will implement procedures to allow hearings to be conducted remotely to the extent necessary and appropriate and may determine that oral argument is unnecessary in certain cases.

Jeffrey W. Coleman, PE, FACI
Categories: Blog, News/Blog