On July 22, 2020, Governor Walz issued a comprehensive 15-page executive order, which details new mask obligations for Minnesotans. Beginning Saturday July 25, 2020, Minnesotans must wear a face covering in “indoor businesses and indoor public settings.” “Businesses” include entities that “employ or engage workers.” “Workers” are broadly defined to include owners, proprietors, employees, contractors, vendors, volunteers, and interns. Those with medical conditions, children under the age of 5, and anyone who works where wearing a face mask would be a “job hazard” are exempt.
The Governor specifically requires masks in five situations: (1) in an indoor business or public indoor space, including when waiting outdoors to go inside, but not in a private vehicle used for private purposes; (2) in vehicles used for business purposes, or when riding public transportation, taxis, or ride-sharing vehicles; (3) in any place that has adopted face covering requirements; (4) outdoors, where social distance cannot be maintained, but for workers only; and (5) wherever required by applicable industry guidance (industry-specific guidance may be more stringent than the order).
The Governor’s order provides that masks may be “temporarily removed” in eleven situations: (1) when participating in organized sports, while the level of exertion makes mask use “difficult”; (2) when exercising, while the level of exertion makes mask use “difficult,” provided that social distancing is maintained; (3) in public‑speaking scenarios, provided that social distancing is maintained; (4) when playing mask-incompatible musical instruments, presumably woodwinds or brass instruments; (5) in wet situations, like when swimming or showering; (6) when eating or drinking; (7) when needed for identification purposes; (8) when communicating with hearing impaired individuals; (9) at the dentist, or while receiving other personal care services, which “would be difficult to perform” on a masked service-recipient; (10) when alone in an office, a room, a cubicle with walls “higher than face level,” a cab of heavy equipment, or other enclosed work area, but the individual should carry a mask in preparation for person-to-person interaction, which is to be used when the individual is no longer alone; and (11) when a mask would “seriously interfere” with a public safety worker’s performance of public safety responsibilities.
The Governor “strongly encourage[s]” masks in five situations: (1) during private social gatherings; (2) during car rides with members of other households; (3) if you are infected with COVID–19 in your own home and reside with others who could be infected; (4) when participating in sports; and (5) when outside and social distancing cannot be consistently maintained.
Businesses have several new obligations. They “must update their COVID–19 Preparedness Plans to include the face covering requirements of this Executive Order.” They must inform their workers that the plan is updated and make the revised plan available to workers. They must “post one or more signs that are visible to all persons—including workers, customers, and visitors—instructing them to wear face coverings.” They must “require all persons, including their workers, customers, and visitors” to wear masks, as provided by the Governor’s order.
Businesses must accommodate workers and customers who say they have a medical condition that makes it unreasonable to wear a mask, by providing them a face shield or alternative service options. Businesses can’t require customers to prove or explain their medical conditions. Businesses must follow generally applicable employment laws as to whether they may ask workers about medical conditions impacting mask use or require workers to document an inability to wear a mask. The order doesn’t authorize businesses to restrain, assault, or physically remove noncompliant workers or customers.
A business is deemed compliant with the Governor’s order if its workers are masked, its plan is updated, the required signage is posted, and “reasonable efforts” to police the order are made. Noncompliance by a business owner, manager, or supervisor is a criminal offense—a misdemeanor—punishable by up to a $1,000 fine and 90 days imprisonment. In addition, the Governor authorizes state and local prosecutors to seek injunctive relief and a $25,000 per occurrence civil penalty. Local licensing and regulatory entities (e.g., municipalities) are encouraged to use their enforcement tools against noncompliant businesses.