MMCA COVID-19 Response & Updates

Check frequently for updates.

If you have employees who need assistance with stress, financial, or familial issues refer them to HealthPartners Employee Assistance Program at 866-326-7194 or text US HEAP and your question to 919-324-5523 or log on to hpeap.com (website password “ptsmn”).

March 26, 2020

Families First Coronavirus Response Act

The FFCRA’s paid leave provisions are effective on April 1, 2020, and apply to leave taken between April 1, 2020, and December 31, 2020.

The Department of Labor has made available the posters that employers are required to display outlining the rights of employeesunder the FFCRA. The Department of Labor also published a FAQ addressing issues related to the posters (e.g., where the posters must be displayed, etc.).

Critical Worker's Under Stay at Home Order

Critical employees may engage in critical work provided that all persons follow the guidelines set forth and maintained by the Minnesota Department of Health including but not limited to social distancing.

The Executive Order does not restrict virtual work or telework and Minnesotans working in any field including, exempted critical sectors are encouraged to work from their home or residence as much as possible. All workers that can work from home must do so.

Refer to MMCA's Bulletin on Jobsite Safety and Employee Communication during the COVID-19 Outbreak for more information.

Additionally, there have been requests for permission slip like documentation for essential workers to travel to and from work. Our reading of the executive order allows essential workers to commute to engage in essential activities without such documentation. Before you issue such documentation to your employees please consider these items:

  • The executive order expressly allows construction workers to commute to work and does not require any documentation in order to work
  • Requests by owner or general contractors
  • Requests by employees
  • Issuing any documentation in a non-discriminatory way
  • Withdrawing a letter if an employee exhibits symptoms or leaves employment
  • Workers’ compensation issues

If you so choose here is a sample letter stating an employee is working in a critical sector determined by Governors Walz's Executive Order 20-20.

March 25, 2020

Stay at Home Executive Order

March 25, 2020, Governor Walz issued an executive order directing Minnesotans to stay at home and limit movement outside of their home beyond essential needs for two weeks. Starting Friday, March 27 at 11:59 pm through Friday, April 10 at 5:00 pm. 

Critical exempted construction work, including all sectors of work by mechanical contractors, are scattered throughout the order. We encourage you to read the order and the accompanying federal guidelines when determining what services you provide. We've highlighted important sections for you to consider. 

"These critical services exemptions apply only to travel to and from an individual’s home or residence and place of work and an individual’s performance of work duties that cannot be done at their homes or residence. Travel may include transportation to and from child care or school settings as necessary to ensure the safe care of children."

Individuals may travel into and out of Minnesota. 

Notably, most construction will be determined critical under the following provision. More critical construction work is listed throughout the order and the accompanying federal guidelines. 

Page 8, Item 6 x:

"Construction and critical trades. This category includes workers in the skilled trades such as electricians, plumbers, HVAC and elevator technicians, and other related construction of all kind. This category also includes exterminators, cleaning and janitorial staff for commercial and governmental properties, moving and relocation services, security staff, operating engineers, and all other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of homes and residences and the Critical Sectors listed in this Executive Order."

Contact MMCA with questions or concerns.

Construction Industry Press Release

MMCA and industry partners issued a statement regarding the Governor's Executive Order & Jobsite Safety. 

"Minnesota’s construction employers and their skilled workforce build, maintain, operate and repair our critical infrastructure, from energy, water, roads, bridges and transit to hospitals, schools, housing, and centers of commerce. The Executive Order Directing Minnesotans to Stay at Home recognizes the importance of construction industry work and is consistent with other states’ orders."

Jobsite Safety and Employee Communication during the COVID-19 Outbreak

We are in extraordinary times filled with alarm and uncertainty. Frequently communicating with your employees and clearly articulating preventive actions your organization is taking to avert or contain transmission of COVID-19 at work will help reduce confusion, fear, and instability.

Below are some reminders and resources to use when evaluating your jobsite(s) and ensuring a safe workplace.

  • Worker education – through communications and posters – of the importance of frequent handwashing, hand hygiene, cough and sneeze etiquette, and staying home when sick. All employees must carefully observe these requirements.
  • Careful attention to jobsite toilet and hand cleaning facilities. Ensure that these facilities are in clean, working order and stocked with soap and/or hand sanitizer.
  • Jobsite and equipment cleanliness. Jobsites must be kept clean, with frequent cleaning of any frequently touched surfaces on the site. Any tools or equipment that might be shared by workers must be cleaned before and after use.
  • Instruct workers to observe a minimum distance of six (6) feet between individuals to increase physical space between workers at the worksite. This includes pre‐work and post‐work events of all kinds.
  • Modify your jobsite communications, planning, and schedules to shrink or eliminate group gatherings. This includes changes to or the elimination of pre‐job conferences, communal break locations, and any other activity that would bring a group of people together on the jobsite.

UA Guidance to Protect Worker Health Related to COVID-19 and Other Potential Infectious Material in Plumbing and HVAC Systems.

OSHA guidance for employers on preparing workplaces for COVID-19.

CDC guidance for businesses and employers.

Federal Guidance Released on FFCRA

he Department of Labor issued initial guidance on the Paid Sick Leave and Expanded Family Medical Leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act that takes effect on April 1, 2020. Additional guidance including the tax credit is expected to be released by DOL and the IRS in the coming weeks.

March 23, 2020

Construction as an Essential Service

As shelter-in-place or similar actions are being announced across the country we have been studying the Gubernatorial orders and listed essential services.  In all cases some form of construction (new, remodel and service) have been an exempt service and is allowed to continue to operate. 

Here in Minnesota there is no official “list” of essential services.  Each state has put together their own list or used the federal government guidance which defines essential by who receives the service rather than who performs the service.  For example, the Department of Homeland Security guidance says “Workers supporting groceries, pharmacies and other retail that sells food and beverage products” are exempt.  This would include mechanicals that install, repair, and service refrigeration and freezer units in grocery stores.  Again, we want to emphasize, Minnesota could use this list or create their own list of essential services (most states have created their own list). 

We have communicated to the Minnesota Governor and Legislative leaders the vital importance of those who install, repair, and service the infrastructure in Minnesota and are continuing to talk to them about this issue.  More to come.

COVID-19 Project Delay Letters & Notices for Contractors

The Mechanical Contractors Association of America's partner Cohen Seglias has developed a package of various sample notices and letters that contractors and subcontractors may use in case of project delay. This package was prepared by the Construction Contracts and Risk Management Group to protect contractor interests and ensure relief. Please note that these forms will need to be modified to suit your particular situation

March 20, 2020

Federal Legislation

On March 18, 2020 the President signed into legislation the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The law includes provisions surrounding COVID-19 testing (paid through health plans), emergency food aid, unemployment insurance (aid to states), and paid leave. 

Paid Leave

For employers with less than 500 employees, employers must provide 80 hours of paid sick leave (pro-rated for part-time employees) available for immediate use regardless of length of employment, if the employee cannot work (or telework), for certain specified reasons related to COVID-19.  The paid sick leave has limits for how much the employee is to be paid depending on the COVID-19 reason they are off work.  Following this first 80 hours of leave, the next 10 weeks is expanded FMLA leave and is paid at 2/Here in Minnesota there is no official “list” of essential services.  Each state has put together their own list or used the federal government guidance which defines essential by who receives the service rather than who performs the service.  For example, the Department of Homeland Security guidance says “Workers supporting groceries, pharmacies and other retail that sells food and beverage products” are exempt.  This would include mechanicals that install, repair, and service refrigeration and freezer units in grocery stores.  Again, we want to emphasize, Minnesota could use this list or create their own list of essential services (most states have created their own list). 3 the employee’s rate of pay (capped at $200 per day and $10,000 in aggregate).  This 10-week expanded FLMA leave is only available to certain employees depending on the reason for the leave. 

The act provides tax credits to employers to help cover the benefit cost. The credit is computed on a quarterly basis and would be against the employer-portion of social security tax payments. Any excess amounts above and beyond the employer-portion of social security taxes would be refunded as a credit.

The Legislation is effective in two weeks, expires on December 31, 2020, and unused paid leave does not carry over from year to year.  

Please, refer to this summary by Faegre Drinker law firm for detailed information on the new law. We urge you to consult your HR professionals and lawyers for implementation  of this new law.  Implementation guidelines are to be issued by the U. S. Department of Labor in the next two weeks.

Unemployment Insurance

The Governor expanded the availability of unemployment insurance on March 16, 2020 for employees affected by COVID-19. More information can be found on their website.

If an employee is temporarily laid off, stay in regular contact with their employer. Under the Executive order, employees would not need to be placed on the out-of-work list with Local to be eligible for unemployment benefits. Call MMCA with any questions (651) 646-2121. 

March 19, 2020

MN Department of Labor & Industry Inspection Services

The Department of Labor and Industry has stressed the importance of building inspections and highlights it as a critical service that must be provided. Correspondence from DLI has gone out to all inspection providers stating "ceasing all inspection services is not an option".

Guidance from DLI to contractors:

If you are experiencing facing difficulties obtaining municipal inspections first try to resolve the delay with the designated building official or other municipal administrator. If the building official or administrator cannot be reached, contact DLI enforcement staff for assistance.

Contact: Wayne Gartland, dli.contractro@state.mn.us, 651-284-5892

March 18, 2020

MN Department of Labor & Industry

  1. Continuting education deadlines have been extended 90 days for licenses that expire in March, April and May 2020.
  2. License renewals must still be submitted prior to the current expiration date. Late fees will apply to renewals submitted after the expiration date.  Renew a license here..
  3. All DLI license exams are suspended indefinitely. 

Minnesota Construction Industry Statement Regarding Jobsite Safety and the COVID‐19 Outbreak

MMCA, twelve other contractor associations and the Minnesota State Building Trades issued the below statement regarding jobsite safety and the COVID-19 outbreak. Use this statement when there are questions surrounding the construction industries response to COVID-19, as a tool to combat owner hesitation and/or for owners who are thinking about renovating and constructing healthcare & other critical facilities.

The Minnesota construction industry is committed to the health, safety and welfare of our workforce and the public. Our respective organizations represent labor and management in the Minnesota construction industry. The purpose of this communication is to describe the specific mitigation strategies that our members – the Minnesota construction industry employers and their skilled workforce – are taking to combat the COVID‐19 outbreak.

The following strategies, which are derived from CDC and OSHA workplace recommendations, have been and are being implemented on our construction industry jobsites across the state. Our organizations are promoting the universal implementation of these measures to safeguard Minnesota construction industry jobsites through the duration of the COVID‐19 outbreak.

Hand‐washing and other hygiene measures are key to preventing the spread of viruses, including COVID‐19. The following measures are being taken across Minnesota’s construction industry:

  • Worker education – through specific communications and posters – of the importance of frequent handwashing, hand hygiene, cough and sneeze etiquette, and staying home when sick. All employees must carefully observe these requirements.
  • Careful attention to jobsite toilet and hand cleaning facilities. All employers must ensure that these facilities are in clean, working order and stocked with soap and/or hand sanitizer.
  • Jobsite and equipment cleanliness. Jobsites must be kept clean, with frequent cleaning of any frequently touched surfaces on the site. Any tools or equipment that might be shared by workers must be cleaned before and after use.

Construction jobsites are not densely populated work areas. Regardless, the following social distancing measures are also being taken across our industry:

  • Workers are being instructed to observe a minimum distance of six (6) feet between individuals to increase physical space between workers at the worksite. This includes pre‐work and post‐work events of all kinds.
  • Employers are modifying their jobsite communications, planning, and schedules to shrink or eliminate group gatherings. This includes changes to or the elimination of pre‐job conferences, communal break locations, and any other activity that would bring a group of people together on the jobsite. Policies for material deliveries and other third‐party jobsite visits are being altered. Employers are simultaneously implementing new strategies to ensure ongoing, successful jobsite communications.

These and other measures – which include remote work directives in office settings – have the full support of labor and management. We will continue to support and take the steps necessary to protect the health, safety and welfare of our workforce and the public.

March 17, 2020

By Executive Order, Governor Waltz expanded the availability of Unemployment Compensation.

The order:

  1. Waived the one-week delay in benefits for laid off employees, thus allowing COVID-19 laid off employees (see #3) to receive benefits on the first day.
  2. Prevented the cost for these benefits from being charged to that individual employer. The cost will be allocated to the system as a whole.
  3. Outlined when the unemployment applicant is presumed to be involuntarily off work:
    • If the applicant’s presence in the workplace would jeopardize the health of others, regardless if the applicant has a communicable disease.
    • A quarantine or isolation order has been issued to the applicant.
    • Health authorities have recommended the applicant self-isolate or self-quarantine.
    • The applicant has been instructed by their employer to not come to work.
    • The applicant has received notice that school, daycare or childcare is cancelled; the applicant has made a reasonable effort to obtain other childcare; and has requested accommodation from the employer; and no accommodation was available.
  4. The five-week benefit limit for business owners is waived.
  5. Strict compliance with the “Minnesota Unemployment Insurance Law is suspended.”

Early this morning, the Minnesota Legislature passed and sent to the Governor a bill to provide $200 million for health care providers to support the fight COVID-19. The grant money would be administered by the Minnesota Dept. of Health for hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, nursing facilities, health care facilities, ambulance services, and other settings in which health care services are provided.

The federal government is also working on legislation concerning COVID-19. A bill has passed the House of Representatives and is set to be taken up by the Senate.

OSHA & CDC Workplace Recommendations to Implement on Jobsites

Hand‐washing and other hygiene measures are key to preventing the spread of COVID-19.

  • Worker education – through specific communications and posters – of the importance of frequent handwashing, hand hygiene, cough and sneeze etiquette, and staying home when sick. All employees must carefully observe these requirements.
  • Careful attention to jobsite toilet and hand cleaning facilities. All employers must ensure that these facilities are in clean, working order and stocked with soap and/or hand sanitizer.
  • Jobsite and equipment cleanliness. Jobsites must be kept clean, with frequent cleaning of any frequently touched surfaces on the site. Any tools or equipment that might be shared by workers must be cleaned before and after use.
  • Workers are being instructed to observe a minimum distance of six (6) feet between individuals to increase physical space between workers at the worksite. This includes pre‐work and post‐work events of all kinds.
  • Modifying jobsite communications, planning, and schedules to shrink or eliminate group gatherings. This includes changes to or the elimination of pre‐job conferences, communal break locations, and any other activity that would bring a group of people together on the jobsite. 

March 16, 2020

Metro Locals #15, 34, 455 & 539 have delayed their May 1st Allocation Vote. The votes have been tentatively rescheduled for the beginning of May and could be delayed further. Wage Sheets will be sent out after the allocations have been determined.

MMCA is tracking legislation on the State and Federal level concerning COVID-19. Anticipate Federal and State changes to unemployment compensation, workers’ compensation, paid leave, & paying for COVID-19 testing.

MMCA is working with our labor partners to coordinate responses to COVID-19 and to keep the construction industry informed.

Please notify MMCA info@minnesotamca.org if you are aware of any jobsite closures or work disruption.

Apprenticeship Programs have been impacted. Please, encourage your apprentices to stay in contact with their program directors.

Most metro Locals operate under a strict hiring hall – if employees are laid off, they will be placed on the hiring list in the order they called in.

Many contractors have asked about what they should tell employees concerning jobsite safety. The Minnesota Department of Health provides general guidance for mitigation strategies and OSHA provides guidelines on Personal Protective Equipment and when COVID-19 may be recorded as a workplace illness. Please, see below for current resources from the State of Minnesota, OSHA, and the Center for Disease Control on best practices for crisis management and response to COVID-19.

Minnesota Department of Health (news & updates)

OSHA Resources:

OSHA standards and directives and other related information that may apply to worker exposure to novel coronavirus, COVID-19:

  • OSHA's Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) standards (in general industry, 29 CFR 1910 Subpart I), requires using gloves, eye and face protection, and respiratory protection.
    • When respirators are necessary to protect workers, employers must implement a comprehensive respiratory protection program in accordance with the Respiratory Protection standard (29 CFR 1910.134).
  • The General Duty Clause, Section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970, 29 USC 654(a)(1), requires employers to furnish to each worker “employment and a place of employment, which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.”

Recording workplace exposures to COVID-19

COVID-19 can be a recordable illness if a worker is infected as a result of performing their work-related duties. However, employers are only responsible for recording cases of COVID-19 if all of the following are met:

  1. The case is a confirmed case of COVID-19 (see CDC information on persons under investigation and presumptive positive and laboratory-confirmed cases of COVID-19);
  2. The case is work-related, as defined by 29 CFR 1904.5; and
  3. The case involves one or more of the general recording criteria set forth in 29 CFR 1904.7 (e.g. medical treatment beyond first-aid, days away from work).

Center for Disease Control & Prevention (news & updates)

Interim Guidance for Businesses from CDC

Watch for symptoms & Call your doctor: If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever and symptoms, such as cough or difficulty breathing, call your healthcare provider for medical advice.

Reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death for confirmed coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases.The following symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure.

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

Encourage your employees to stay home if they are sick

Crisis Management (including a Pandemic) and the Construction Industry

Whether tornado, flood, death of the owner, or a virus pandemic, crisis management is one of those things few do well, most people do poorly, and some do not do at all. Planning for a pandemic is run-of-the-mill crisis management.

Here are excerpts of what some experts say and some resources to help you create a plan to manage a pandemic or any other disaster crisis.

Other Resources: