On March 27, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz clarified that Executive Order 20-20, which directed Minnesota residents to stay at home, applies to debt collection professionals. Due to ongoing coronavirus (“COVID-19”) concerns, Executive Order 20-20, which will remain in effect until April 10, 2020, orders all persons living in the State of Minnesota to stay at home except to engage in exempted activities and critical sector work.
One of the exempted sectors includes “financial services” companies, comprised of “workers at banks, credit unions, insurance companies, insurance agencies, and other financial services workers identified in the [Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency] Guidance.” However, last Friday, Gov. Walz stated that “debt collection professionals and other workers supporting debt collection are not exempted” from the stay at home order. Specifically, debt collection professionals are not considered to be “critical workers” and they should remain in their homes.
This clarification followed the Minnesota Department of Commerce’s remote worker guidance for licensed collection agencies and registered debt collectors. This guidance noted that under state law, debt collectors are not permitted to work from home unless the home is a licensed branch location. However, given the COVID-19 outbreak, the Department stated that it would not take any action against “any licensee who allows their individual registered collectors to temporarily work from home as a precautionary measure,” so long as certain criteria are met:
- The activity is conducted from the home location of an individual working on behalf of a Minnesota licensee;
- The individual is working from home due to a reason relating to the COVID‐19 outbreak and has informed the licensee of such reason;
- None of the activity will be conducted in person with members of the public from the home location; and
- The licensee shall at all times exercise supervision of the activity being performed at the home office and ensure that appropriate safeguards and controls are in place to protect consumer information and data.
Though the Department is giving debt collectors leeway in terms of working remotely, it reminds debt collectors that they must still follow applicable law. The Department’s position is to remain in effect through April 30, 2020; however, the guidance notes that it may be amended, revised, or extended at any time.