Contractors, subcontractors, suppliers, architects, engineers, and other participants in the construction industry face great uncertainty as the reach and impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to develop. This legal alert analyzes the impact of Minnesota's recently issued "Stay at Home" Order ("the Order") on construction operations, as well as other similar orders from across the country.
Construction Sites Exempted from Minnesota's "Stay at Home" Order
On March 25, 2020, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz issued Emergency Executive Order 20-20. Effective beginning Friday, March 27, 2020, at 11:59 pm, all persons currently living within the State of Minnesota are ordered to stay at home or in their place of residence in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. Workers in "Critical Sectors" as defined in the Order who can work from home must do so, but are exempt from the Order's restrictions to the extent they cannot. Workers who fit into any of the U.S. Department of Homeland Securities' Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce ("CISA Guidance") categories qualify for a Critical Sector worker exemption. Included in the list of "Critical Sectors" is the following:
Construction and Critical Trades. This category includes workers in the skilled trades such as electricians, plumbers, HVAC and elevator technicians, and other related construction workers 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.
Although the Order places no additional restrictions on construction companies or site operations, certain provisions may affect access to certain project sites as well as the availability of materials needed for construction. Additionally, the response to the COVID-19 pandemic is constantly shifting, and it will be essential to monitor future developments to determine whether additional restrictions are added.
Operations in Other States May Be Affected
Many states have similarly identified construction operations and other critical trades as exempt from "shelter in place" orders. Some state and local governments, however, have limited or suspended construction activities. For example, the City of Boston suspended all non-emergency construction projects, and Pennsylvania has suspended transportation projects apart from emergency maintenance. Several counties in central California, including San Francisco County, have limited construction projects to "essential public infrastructure." Most statewide executive orders related to COVID-19, including "shelter in place" orders, can be found at: COVID-19 Resources for State Leaders—Executive Orders. However, it is also important to examine county and municipal orders that may affect construction operations.
We Can Help
Other aspects of your construction business may be affected by recent executive and legislative actions, including required changes to employee leave policies. Check your contracts for force majeure or other "emergency related" clauses as well as your insurance policies for potential coverage, and develop a strategy to combat business disruptions or potential performance issues. Please contact Maslon's Construction attorneys with any questions.