LGN Partner Susan Ellingstad featured in MPR News

Millions of Americans will be subject to new vaccine mandates issued by President Joe Biden, including more than 1.4 million workers in Minnesota.

The announcement this week comes as the highly contagious delta variant continues to sweep the nation, putting unvaccinated people at higher risk of hospitalization and death.

Biden only described his plan in broad strokes during a White House press conference Thursday, but the strategy is already drawing applause from some corners — and a lot of questions from others.

On one hand, the mandate gives employers who are hesitant to battle employees over vaccines cover, said Susan Ellingstad, a partner with Minneapolis-based firm Lockridge Grindal Nauen.

“I think there are a lot of employers who have really wanted to [issue vaccine mandates] and […]

2021-09-13T11:21:03-05:00Sep 13, 2021|

LGN Partner Susan Ellingstad featured in StarTribune

Minnesota employers, many of whom had been wary of instituting vaccine mandates of their own, were scrambling on Friday to understand how and when they will have to implement new federal guidelines that will require them to do just that.

On Thursday, President Joe Biden announced sweeping new federal regulations that will require employers with more than 100 workers to require immunizations or weekly testing. It’s a big move aimed at curbing the recent surge in COVID cases and hospitalizations mostly among the unvaccinated.

In Minnesota, the new orders will affect about 4,800 businesses which employ about 1.4 million Minnesotans, according to Steve Grove, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED). That is about half of the state’s total workforce.

Amid a tight labor market, […]

2021-09-13T10:23:19-05:00Sep 13, 2021|

LGN Partner Susan Ellingstad featured in StarTribune

Following a closely watched legal battle over a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for staff at a Houston health system — a battle that the hospital won — no hospital or nursing home in Minnesota has imposed a COVID-19 vaccine mandate on its workers, people in the industry say.

Though vaccine mandates appear legal, trade groups representing hospitals and nursing homes in the state are not urging their members to implement them now. The Minnesota Department of Health hasn’t taken a position.

“That should not be construed to suggest that it isn’t incredibly important that people be vaccinated,” MDH spokesman Doug Schultz said in a statement. “It is VERY important to get everyone vaccinated.”

Minnesota reached a vaccine milestone last week, surpassing 3 million residents with […]

2021-06-21T13:26:55-05:00Jun 21, 2021|

LGN Partner Susan Ellingstad featured in Wall Street Journal

LGN Partner Susan Ellingstad was recently featured in a Wall Street Journal article discussing the role that employers have in ensuring a high percentage of the population gets vaccinated in an effort to curb the pandemic.

Lockridge Grindal Nauen in March mandated that our 100-person staff get vaccinated, barring an exemption for medical or religious reasons. Employees weren’t asked to provide proof but to notify our firm’s human resources director when they were fully vaccinated to help determine when we could reopen our offices or schedule more in-person gatherings. Ms. Ellingstad said there was no resistance, and all employees have complied.

“We’re never going to get past this until we have enough people vaccinated,” Ms. Ellingstad said. “Employers have a role to play in this.”

Read the full article here: https://www.wsj.com/articles/companies-push-employees-to-prove-they-are-vaccinated-11623672001

2021-06-21T13:03:05-05:00Jun 14, 2021|

EMPLOYERS’ BIG DECISION – WHETHER TO MANDATE VACCINATION FOR EMPLOYEES

Now that three COVID-19 vaccines have finally received emergency use authorization (“EUA”) from the Federal Food & Drug Administration (“FDA”) and President Biden just announced that all eligible adults should be able to sign up for a vaccine appointment by May 1, the question employers have pondered for some time is ripe for decision: Can employers require their employees to get vaccinated? And the related questions: Can employers ask employees for proof of vaccination? Can employers prohibit employees from coming to the workplace without having been vaccinated? And can employers terminate employees who refuse to be vaccinated?

The short answer to all of the above is yes. But as with every employment decision, it comes with lots of caveats, careful navigation through the legal landscape, risk assessments, and employee morale considerations.

The Legal Landscape

Several federal laws govern these questions, including the Americans with […]

2021-03-17T13:39:41-05:00Mar 15, 2021|

The Importance of High Quality Masks

With the high level of community spread of COVID-19 and now new, more transmissible strains of the virus, it is more important than ever to wear a high-quality mask when you are out in public or inside around anyone who does not live with you. Because medical quality masks were in short supply at the beginning of the pandemic, and N95 masks (which offer the best protection and can filter out at least 95% of infectious particles) were needed for health care workers, the public was advised to use cloth masks. For some time now, medical/surgical masks have been available and are superior to cloth masks. But scientists say even surgical masks, which do not fit tightly, may not be enough to protect against these new variants of the virus, especially when people are indoor spaces with other people, such as grocery stores. The recommendation now is, at a minimum, […]

2021-02-04T20:36:35-06:00Feb 2, 2021|

LGN Partner Susan Ellingstad recently chaired a full-day Employment Law program through Minnesota CLE on various topics relating to COVID-19

Ms. Ellingstad presented a session on Workplace Safety, including implementing and revising safety protocols and policies to reflect the evolving science and knowledge about COVID-19. Much of what we are learning about COVID-19 will impact our work environment long after the pandemic is over. This important discussion centered on creating best practices and proactive measures and evolving them as information rapidly changes.

Susan E. Ellingstad
Partner
seellingstad@locklaw.com
(612) 596-4074

2021-01-19T16:31:55-06:00Jan 19, 2021|

Legislative Alert: Walz Announces Learning Plan for Upcoming School Year

Today, Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan, along with the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), announced Minnesota’s Safe Learning Plan for the 2020-21 School Year.

School districts and charter schools will begin in one of three models: in-person, distance learning, or a hybrid model. Experts at the Departments of Health and Education will partner with local school districts and charter schools to help determine which learning model they should use to start the school year. The decision-making process centers on the health, safety, and wellbeing of our students, staff, and families by using the level of viral activity in the surrounding county and other factors such as the district’s ability to meet mitigation requirements. The learning model decision will be announced by the local school district.

“As a classroom teacher for more than 20 years […]

2020-07-31T16:18:01-05:00Jul 31, 2020|

LGN Federal Update: Senate Leadership Unveils New Coronavirus Relief Plan

U.S. Senate leadership late on Monday unveiled a draft plan to provide $1 trillion in coronavirus relief funding ahead of negotiations with House leaders. As a package of separate bills, the plan gives Congress the option of passing parts of the agenda now, such as extensions of unemployment insurance or public health funding, and leaving the rest for later.

The majority caucus in the Senate had been divided on the overall cost of the plan and how to extend the supplemental unemployment benefits expiring this week. Congressional Democrats, backing their own $3.5 trillion HEROES Act passed in the House in May, have signaled that negotiations would begin once the GOP had united around their own plan. 

Notably, the Senate plan does not include any additional funding for state and local governments, a top priority for House leadership and Senate Democrats. The House-passed HEROES Act included $500 […]

2020-07-28T15:55:32-05:00Jul 28, 2020|

Legislative Alert: Walz Signs Executive Order on Masking

Governor Tim Walz today signed Executive Order 20-81, which requires Minnesotans to wear a face covering in indoor businesses and indoor public settings. Researchers have advocated for masking, calling it a simple and effective step to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. To date, 30 states across the country, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico have issued similar mandates.

“COVID-19 has impacted every corner of our state and every aspect of our lives,” said Governor Walz. “But as Minnesotans always do during tough times, we come together and we take care of one another. And right now there’s no better way to demonstrate our Minnesotan values than by wearing a mask. By combatting the spread of COVID-19, masking will help protect our neighbors, keep our businesses open, and get us on track to return to the activities we love.”

“Wearing a mask is one of the best ways we can slow the […]

2020-07-22T16:24:59-05:00Jul 22, 2020|

LGN Federal Update: July 20, 2020

Senate Leadership Reveals Outline of Next Relief Package Proposal

Senate leadership plans to unveil their opening bid for the next round of economic aid this week, which is expected to include providing continued unemployment insurance subsidies, tax incentives for employers to avoid layoffs and encourage rehiring, and a new round of checks and direct payments sent by the IRS.

The proposal will resemble much of the CARES Act, but it is not expected to include a new round of direct aid to state and local governments, or the full $600 per week unemployment subsidy provided by that legislation. House leaders have made aid to local governments and unemployment subsidies major priorities for the next phase of aid.

A payroll tax cut is also expected in the legislation despite initial resistance from both Democrats and Republicans. There has been little support in Congress for the idea, […]

2020-07-20T18:18:23-05:00Jul 20, 2020|

Absentee Voting for Minnesota’s Primary Election – What You Need to Know

This is the first full week of no-excuse absentee voting for the Minnesota’s primary election, which is scheduled for Tuesday, August 11.

When multiple candidates of the same political party file to run for the same office, a primary election is needed to decide which candidate will appear as the party candidate for that office on the November ballot. For non-partisan races, such as county commissioner, primaries are needed to narrow the choices to two candidates for the November ballot in situations where there are three or more candidates running for a particular office.
While the ballot will contain candidates for both the DFL and Republican primaries, voters must only vote in one party’s primary. If you vote for candidates in both parties’ primaries, your ballot will be rejected.

Due to heightened concern regarding in-person voting due to COVID-19, the state is encouraging Minnesotans to use no-excuse absentee voting for both the primary […]

2020-06-30T15:06:19-05:00Jun 30, 2020|

LGN FEDERAL UPDATE: JUNE 1, 2020

Minnesota Congressional Delegation Reacts to Statewide Protests

With the Twin Cities receiving national attention for the last week in the wake of George Floyd’s death, members of Minnesota’s congressional delegation have responded to the unfolding turmoil with a range of statements, letters, and legislative actions.

Minnesota’s Senators, Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, received support from 26 of their Senate colleagues in sending a letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr calling for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice to conduct an investigation into the patterns of racially discriminatory and violent policing in the Minneapolis Police Department.

Minneapolis’s Representative, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, introduced a resolution in the House with Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (D-MA-07) to condemn police brutality, racial profiling and the excessive use of force. Representatives HagedornCraig, and Phillips all took to social media to encourage their constituents to be […]

2020-06-01T16:01:21-05:00Jun 1, 2020|

LEGISLATIVE ALERT: WALZ ANNOUNCES PLANS FOR OUTDOOR DINING, LIMITED OCCUPANCY SALONS

Governor Tim Walz today announced the phases in his Stay Safe Plan, including a cautious, strategic turn of the dial to allow limited outdoor dining at restaurants and bars starting June 1, 2020. The Governor also announced that salons and barbershops will be allowed to open June 1 at 25 percent occupancy to ensure the safety of both the employees and the customers inside. In both industries, customers will be either strongly recommended or required to wear masks, make reservations, and adhere to social distancing requirements to keep themselves, other customers, and employees safe.

“Our restaurants and bars are an integral part of the social fabric of Minnesota, and it has been heartbreaking to see this pandemic wreak havoc on our hospitality industry,” said Governor Walz. “While the virus won’t yet allow for business as usual, let’s do what we do best after winter in Minnesota and […]

2020-05-20T17:05:28-05:00May 20, 2020|

LGN FEDERAL UPDATE: MAY 18

House Passes $3 Trillion Stimulus Bill

The House passed a $3 trillion Democratic economic stimulus bill on Friday that Senate leadership and President Trump have already rejected, making it less likely to trigger bipartisan negotiations in the immediate future. The measure, passed 208-199, would give cash-strapped states and local governments more than $1 trillion while providing most Americans with a new round of $1,200 checks. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said it should be the basis of talks with the GOP-controlled Senate and White House, which have called for a “pause” to allow earlier coronavirus recovery spending to work.

President Trump and Republican congressional leaders have acknowledged that some sort of further economic stimulus will likely be necessary as the economy continues to shed jobs. The number of people filing for unemployment benefits since March now exceeds 36 million. “Phase four is going to happen but it’s […]

2020-06-01T16:05:43-05:00May 18, 2020|

LEGISLATIVE ALERT: WALZ ANNOUNCES NEXT PHASE OF COVID-19 RESPONSE IN MINNESOTA

Today, Governor Tim Walz announced the next phase of the COVID-19 response in Minnesota. Citing progress made to prepare for peak of infection, the Governor announced a measured, cautious turning of the dial toward a new normal. With the Stay Home Executive Order set to expire on May 18, the Governor will replace it with an order continuing to encourage Minnesotans to stay close to home but allowing for gatherings of friends and family of 10 people or less. The Governor will also open retail stores and other main street businesses if they have a social distancing plan and operate at 50 percent occupancy.

“Minnesotans, thank you for your continued sacrifices,” Governor Walz said. “You have saved thousands of lives. You successfully pushed out the peak of this virus and bought our state time to get ready to treat those who fall ill. We know there’s no […]

2020-05-14T13:08:11-05:00May 14, 2020|

WORKPLACE PROTECTIONS STILL APPLY WHEN YOU WORK FROM HOME

LGN Partner Susan Ellingstad was recently among some Twin Cities attorneys interviewed by MPR News about workplace protections that apply when employees are working from home. Employers need to consider worker’s compensation laws, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), and privacy laws, to name a few. Susan heads the firm’s employment law department. She and her team regularly advise employers on these and other issues impacting employers. Listen to the interview.

2020-05-13T15:23:35-05:00May 13, 2020|

LGN FEDERAL UPDATE: MAY 11

Congress in Early Stages of Developing Fourth Relief Package

The Senate is back today with plans to continue considering President Trump’s nominations and legislation to reinstate some expired surveillance programs, but little formal talk of a fourth coronavirus relief package. After backing almost $3 trillion to offset the economic impact of the coronavirus, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republicans have begun raising alarms about the deficit and characterizing a new relief package as an “if, not when” proposition.

The House could return with a vote on another coronavirus response bill, but no schedule or legislation has been released so far. Moderates and progressives in the House majority were still debating the contents of a possible bill late last week, with leadership considering proposals including extending unemployment benefits and providing more cash payments to individuals.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said last week there will also […]

2020-06-01T16:07:35-05:00May 12, 2020|

MASKS AND RESPIRATORS FOR COVID-19 – WHAT EMPLOYERS NEED TO KNOW

Masks vs. Respirators

OSHA and MN OSHA distinguish between masks and respirators.  Masks (homemade, paper, and non-surgical masks) provide some protection to those around the wearer from droplets, etc., if the wearer coughs or sneezes.  These masks do not, however, provide the same level of protection for the wearer from inhaling particles or contaminates that is provided by a properly used and fitted respirator. See, Brosseau and Sietsema, Commentary: Masks-for-all for COVID-19 not based on sound data, April 1, 2020, Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy.  Even though masks are not considered personal protective equipment (PPE), MN OSHA has nonetheless established some guidelines for employers on their use, which are discussed below.

Respirators (including what most people refer to as “N95 masks”) are considered PPE and, if properly fitted and used, can provide protection for the wearer from the hazardous atmospheres and materials and agents for […]

2020-05-08T11:58:56-05:00May 5, 2020|

EMPLOYER BEST PRACTICES AND PROACTIVE MEASURES FOR REOPENING

As part of Minnesota’s and other states’ reopening measures, state and local governments are requiring employers – before opening – to implement preparedness plans which adopt guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), federal and state Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and state Departments of Health to combat the spread of COVID-19. These safeguards include:

  • Personal hygiene and respiratory etiquette;
  • Engineering and administrative controls for social distancing;
  • Housekeeping – cleaning, disinfecting and decontamination;
  • Prompt identification and isolation of sick persons;
  • Communications and training that will be provided to managers and workers; and
  • Management and supervision necessary to ensure effective implementation of the plan.

In addition to meeting the minimum requirements to comply with executive orders and recommended guidelines, employers need to be proactive leaders in reducing the risk of future outbreaks […]

2020-05-07T17:14:38-05:00May 1, 2020|
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