COVID-19 and Minnesota Unemployment Update

By Tom Marshall

On March 16, 2020, Gov. Walz made his Executive Order 20-05 which relaxed unemployment requirements for employees displaced due to COVID-19. See Order here: https://mn.gov/governor/assets/2020_03_16_EO_20-05_Unemployment_Insurance_tcm1055-423379.pdf and prior article here: https://www.e-ulaw.com/Articles/Families-First-Coronavirus-Response-Act-and-Minnesota-Employers.shtml.

On April 6, 2020, Gov. Walz supplemented that Order with Executive Order 20-29. Here: https://mn.gov/governor/assets/2a.%20EO%2020-29%20Final%20Filed_tcm1055-426997.pdf. This Order further relaxes unemployment requirements and places an obligation on employers to provide notice.

First, the Order suspends enforcement of Minnesota Statutes § 268.085, Subd. 3 by eliminating the delay of unemployment benefits for any week(s) the unemployment applicant receives vacation pay, sick pay, or personal time off (PTO) pay. Presumably, the period for which an unemployment applicant receives severance pay is not affected and severance pay would delay the receipt of unemployment benefits. See Minn. Stat. § 268.085, Subd. 3b. However, Gov. Walz' Order further states that:

  • Because strict compliance with Minnesota Statutes 2019, Chapter 268 and Minnesota Rules 2019, part 3310, will prevent, hinder, or delay necessary action under this Executive Order, those provisions, and any other provisions in Minnesota Statutes or Rules that are inconsistent with this Executive Order, are waived and suspended during the peacetime emergency...

One could argue that in the appropriate case those receiving severance for losing their job as a result of COVID-19 should not have a delay on unemployment benefits as well. Gov. Walz' Order "includes" Minn. Stat. § 268.085, Subd. 3, but does not specifically exclude Subd. 3b of the same statute.

Second, the Order places an obligation on all employers to "notify separated employees that they can apply for unemployment insurance benefits." This obligation qualifies Minnesota to receive funds from the federal government from the recently enacted federal laws dealing with the virus. Accordingly, all employers must provide notices with all separations that employees may apply for unemployment benefits.

Finally, the federal government recently published the procedures for state agencies to share in the federal monies for unemployment. These procedures may be found here: https://wdr.doleta.gov/directives/attach/UIPL/UIPL_16-20.pdf.