Frequently asked questions about MMB’s vaccine and testing requirements
How long is this policy going to be in effect?
MMB has stated that as we are in the early days of the policy there is no timeline on how long MMB HR/LR Policy #1446 will be in effect.
Where can I read the policy?
MMB HR/LR Policy #1446 can be found at this link.
Where can I get vaccinated?
- Find an appointment through the Vaccine Connector: VaccineConnector.mn.gov
- Minnesota Department of Health COVID-19 Public Hotline 1-833-431-2053
- Mon-Fri, 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. & Sat, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
- Use the state’s Vaccine Locator Map to find a vaccine provider near you. .
- Check for vaccine appointments using the Vaccine Finder
- You can search for appointments by vaccine type (e.g., Pfizer, Moderna, etc.).
- Contact your primary health care provider or a local pharmacy.
Which vaccines are acceptable under this policy?
Per the policy, “In order to be considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the staff member must have received a COVID-19 vaccine that has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) or the World Health Organization (“WHO”). If the vaccine was administered outside of the United States, documentation must include the above information in English.” For emergency use, FDA has authorized vaccines currently manufactured by Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson.
What if I don’t want to get a vaccination?
The policy does not mandate or require employees to be vaccinated. If an employee who spends more than 10 minutes in the workplace or provides Agency services outside their home does not produce proof of vaccination and a signed attestation form per policy they will be subject to testing and the rules laid out in the policy.
What if I don’t want to provide proof of testing if I’m unvaccinated and need to be in the physical workplace or provide services outside my home?
Per the policy: “Staff who refuse to sign the consent form or any other forms necessary for testing, refuse to submit to a COVID-19 test, or refuse to provide documentation of test submission and test results if the agency does not have a testing facility, will be informed that they will be excluded from the workplace, and may be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including discharge, for refusing a work directive.
- These staff members may be sent home and placed in no-pay status (ETL for employees) until they have been tested for COVID-19 or until management, in its sole discretion, determines they no longer require COVID-19 testing. If the staff member is an employee of the agency, prior to being placed in no-pay status, they will be offered a meeting with their supervisor to learn the reasons for being placed in no-pay status and to tell their side of the story. The employee may have union representation at the meeting.
- Staff placed in no-pay status who later determine they wish to be tested may obtain a COVID-19 test on their own time at their own expense and have the results reported to agency Human Resources or may be tested at an agency facility with agency approval.”
Will the State pay for testing? Per Minnesota Department of Health Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 Testing: “COVID-19 testing is no-cost in Minnesota for everyone who lives in the state. The State of Minnesota has made no-cost testing available to everyone through a number of testing options, such as community testing sites and the Test at Home program.” Agency-approved testing is being provided at no cost to employees. Testing done after an initial refusal needed for re-admission to the workplace are paid by the employee.
Will testing/getting the vaccine be done on employer time?
Per the policy, both in agencies that have testing facilities on-site and those that do not: “Testing will occur during work hours and be considered work time.” Testing is considered to be in the scope and course of employment for those in the testing pool and will be compensated accordingly.
If my agency has on-site testing, can I still do testing off-site or am I required to test on-site?
Per the policy, “If the agency has a testing facility, then testing will be performed on site. If the agency does not have a testing facility, the agency may require staff to provide proof of both test submission and test results from a State testing facility or a non-State testing facility.”
What types of tests will be acceptable? What reporting mechanisms will be acceptable for self-administered tests?
Per the policy, “Procedure for agencies that do not have an on-site testing facility
- The agency will determine testing dates which will occur at least weekly and will either send the staff member to a State testing facility or to a non-State testing facility. The agency has sole discretion to choose or authorize the testing location and whether to accept the results from a particular testing method.
- Testing will occur during work hours and be considered work time.
- The staff member must provide agency HR documentation of test submission either on the same day or no later than the next day the staff member is scheduled to report to work, and must submit documentation of test results on the same day the staff member receives them if it is a workday, or no later than the next day the staff member is scheduled to report to work.”
What happens if I test positive for COVID-19? What leave options are available to me now that COVID Leave is no longer available?
A positive COVID-19 test result will not be used as the basis for discipline or discharge.Staff members with positive test results must call in to Human Resources and their supervisor, must not report to work, and must isolate according to current MDH Guidelines for the applicable profession. The staff member’s supervisor and/or manager will determine if the staff member’s job duties can be performed through telework. If the staff member’s supervisor and/or manager determines the staff member’s job duties cannot be performed through telework or does not approve the staff member to telework, the staff member must contact the designated agency HR representative to determine what type of leave the staff member may be eligible to use.
Directly from MMB: “If [an employee] can telework, they’ll be teleworking. If it can’t be done (telework) it would be leave.
In a situation with ETL where somebody has refused to test, it’s a requirement for entry for these people to test, as the policy lays out. If they want to get tested on their own, they can be let back in, or at the next scheduled test day, they could be let back in.”
Will worker’s compensation for any ill effects be possible?
Directly from MMB: “The vaccination is not mandatory therefore there would not be eligible for worker’s comp coverage. If there’s an injury from testing, it would be in the course and scope of employment. It’s a mandatory work-related function.” (Worker’s compensation eligible).
Privacy is an issue for me. How is the data about my vaccination status or my testing results protected? Does HIPAA apply?
Per the policy: “Agencies must maintain the confidentiality of staff COVID-19 test results and vaccination status as provided by law. All information gathered under this Policy, including test results, vaccination status, attestation forms and signed COVID-19 Testing Consent forms, must be retained by HR according to the applicable retention schedule and in a secure medical file separate from the staff member’s personnel file. Testing information may be shared with the designated testing laboratory, the designated vendor, the Minnesota Department of Health, local public health, agency HR staff, agency safety administrator, members of the agency’s staff with a business need to know, and others authorized by law. COVID-19 vaccination status may be shared with agency HR staff, agency safety administrator, members of the agency’s staff with a business need to know, and others authorized by law.” While it would be a violation of HIPAA for your health insurance provider to give the employer personally identifiable information or personally identifiable information without your consent, the employer asking for vaccination status is not a violation of HIPAA. HIPAA Journal article on this topic.
Directly from MMB: “In general, here is how we (MMB) have counseled the Agencies: the test results are confidential medical information and should only be going to HR. If there’s a positive, there will have to be some sharing. This information has to be communicated to the Agency safety administrator and the supervisor so the process for contact tracing can begin. Obviously, when we do that, we don’t name names, but we have to notify co-workers in some form. This information is always treated as a confidential medical record. Agency HRs are experts on retaining info and maintaining confidential medical information, they do this for ADA / FMLA all the time. In terms of retention, we only retain for as long as there is a business reason to do so.”
What if my sincerely held religious beliefs are opposed to vaccinations?
Per the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s “What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws” page: “An employee who does not get vaccinated due to a disability (covered by the ADA) or a sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance (covered by Title VII) may be entitled to a reasonable accommodation that does not pose an undue hardship on the operation of the employer’s business. For example, as a reasonable accommodation, an unvaccinated employee entering the workplace might wear a face mask, work at a social distance from coworkers or non-employees, work a modified shift, get periodic tests for COVID-19, be given the opportunity to telework, or finally, accept a reassignment.”
What happens to people who cannot get the vaccine?
MMB HR/LR Policy #1446 makes no distinction between those who cannot receive the vaccine and those who choose to not get vaccinated. The employee would likely then be subject to the same mandate of weekly testing or need to request, and be approved, for telework.
Will employees within the vaccination regimen be allowed to WFH if not fully vaccinated or will they be in no-pay status?
If an employee has only received one dose of a two dose vaccine or are still within the two week window of receiving the final dose of vaccine, that employee is considered unvaccinated and therefore subject to the same process and requirements as employees who refuse the vaccine, specifically mandatory weekly testing, before returning to the workplace. This policy does not apply to staff who have an approved telework arrangement and solely telework from home, do not access the workplace for more than 10 minutes, and do not otherwise provide agency services outside the staff member’s home.
Will people be eligible for Unemployment Insurance if they are terminated under this policy?
No. Per the Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) guidelines on Unemployment Insurance (UI) on eligibility, recipients must “be unemployed, or working substantially reduced hours, through no fault of your own.” Failure to comply with a work rule or policy leading to discharge would not be considered “no fault of your own.” MMB has stated they consider repeated violations of Policy #1446 to be misconduct. This makes a successful UI claim very unlikely.
If I primarily work from home, but my job occasionally requires me to go into the field, do I have to follow this policy?
Yes, the policy defines “workplace” as “any location outside of a staff member’s home where state work is performed or any location visited by the staff member for more than 10 minutes while on work time.”
I am not required to work in person, but I want to work in my office. Am I required to get vaccinated?
Yes. The testing option is only available to those who are required to work in person.
If someone gets a positive test, they go home and quarantine, what should they expect when they come back and test? We’re hearing reports of false-positive tests.
Directly from MMB: “If you’re vaccinated [and attest], you’re not tested. The guidance we’ve been given, if you’re within the 90 days window, you’ve had a positive PCR test, you’ve isolated, you’re not symptomatic, you’re not going to be tested. The immunity is not as good as there is with a vaccine, but there is some immunity.”