Governor Walz recently issued Executive Order 20-51. Beginning May 11, 2020, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, and clinics-whether veterinary, medical, or dental-may resume a wider range of clinically necessary care, including care that uses PPE or ventilators.
Restrictions are eased on the condition that healthcare facilities develop and implement an “internal oversight structure and written plan.” The plan is required for facilities that offer procedures that use PPE or ventilators.
Generally, the plan must establish procedure-priority criteria. It must ensure a safe environment for patients, staff, and visitors. It must specify how patients will be screened. “Staff must be screened at the beginning of each shift.” Each patient (or, in the case of veterinary procedures, each patient’s owner) must be informed of the risks of COVID-19 transmission associated with the procedure.
The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) provides more details in this guidance.
Executive Order 20-51 also emphasizes worker protections provided by existing Minnesota law. Employers may not retaliate against workers who ask questions or raise concerns about occupational safety or health matters related to COVID-19. Workers may refuse to work if they, in good faith, reasonably believe “that they have been assigned to work in an unsafe or unhealthful manner with an infectious agent such as COVID-19.”
Retaliation or discrimination against a worker who refused to perform assigned tasks is prohibited, if the worker asked the employer to correct the hazardous conditions but they remain uncorrected. These situations should be immediately reported to the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (DLI).
Workers have the right to request that DLI conduct an inspection of their workplace. DLI may issue citations, civil penalties, or closure orders to places of employment with unsafe or unhealthy conditions, and DLI may penalize employers that retaliate against workers who raise safety and health concerns. Awards of backpay and compensatory damages are authorized.
For legal advice specific to the operation of your Minnesota business, please contact us at Dunlap & Seeger, P.A.