b'Demand For CommercialAre Employer-Mandated Office Space Is ChangingCOVID-19 Vaccinations But Offices Are Not Obsolete Worth a Shot?Nearly one year ago, the COVID-19 pandemic caused manyA Local Perspective When Minnesotas first stay-at-home order took effect, many employers to shutter their offices indefinitely. The abrupt shiftThe Twin Cities office real estate market was certainly notemployers believed office closures would be short-term. to remote work changed the atmosphere and economic realityimmune to the effects of the pandemic. The vacancy rate for theBut as the pandemic progressed, it became apparent that remote of downtown and metro areas. But with the rollout of multipleMinneapolis-St. Paul Market for 2020 was 14% for all properties,work would continue for an extended period of time. Now, with COVID-19 vaccines, there is reason to be optimistic about awhich is a four-year high. While asking rates from landlordsmultiple COVID-19 vaccines becoming available, employers may comeback for these business districts, including in the Twin Cities. generally held steady in the Twin Cities area in 2020, morebe tempted to mandate vaccinations for their employees tothe employee did not receive a vaccination may elicit information Remote Work & Socially Distant Office Spacestenant-friendly concession packages were also offered.accelerate returning to the office. Before doing so, employersabout a disability. The ADA requires that disability-related inquiries The shift to remote work has led many companies to reevaluateYet, there are signs the market will bounce back. The fact thatshould pause to consider the legal implications as well as possiblebe job related and consistent with a business necessity. their office space needs, especially if remote work did not resulta number of development projects in downtown Minneapolisalternatives to a mandated vaccination policy.Title VII of the Civil Rights Act in a reduction in productivity. At the same time, there are manymoved forward despite the pandemic suggests continuedFederal Guidance COVID-19 vaccination policies may also implicate Title VII of the employees who are expressing a preference for remote work orbusiness confidence in the downtown area. One such project is some hybrid-model. For these reasons, remote work is unlikely tothe construction of what will be one of the tallest buildings inOn December 16, 2020, the Equal Employment OpportunityCivil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of end even after the pandemic does. Consider these statistics:downtown Minneapolis, which will offer commercial office spaceCommission (EEOC) issued revised guidance on whetherreligion. If an employee opts out of the COVID-19 vaccine due to and be home to a five-star luxury hotel.employer-mandated COVID-19 vaccinations are allowed undera sincerely held religious belief, the employer should be prepared According to a recent Gartner CFO Survey, 74% of chieffederal law. While federal law generally permits employers toto provide reasonable accommodations. financial officers and other finance executives expectIn the past few months, there has been a noticeable increasedevelop policies that mandate the COVID-19 vaccine, employers they will move at least 5% of their onsite workforce toin foot traffic in the downtown Minneapolis skyways asmust still comply with pertinent anti-discrimination laws.The EEOC recommends that employers assume an employees remote work after the pandemic.well as more people frequenting coffee shops and lunchrequest for religious accommodation is based on a sincerely In the United States, the number of employees workingspotssignaling that many offices are reopening and employeesAmericans with Disabilities Actheld belief. However, additional supporting information may be from home is estimated to increase from 5%-6% ofare heading back to the office for work. If COVID-19 casesThe Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) allows employersnecessary in some situations. employees working from home prior to the pandemic tocontinue to trend downward in Minnesota as they have duringto create safety-based qualification standards for employees. between 10%-11% after.the beginning of 2021, it is likely downtown and metro areas willA COVID-19 vaccination requirement may be consideredAlternatives to a Vaccination Mandatecontinue to see a resurgence in economic activity.For some employers, a COVID-19 vaccination mandate may prove However, an increase in remote work does not necessarily meana safety-based qualification standard, but legal issues may Conclusion arise if a disability prevents an employee from receiving thedifficult to establish or enforce. There are numerous alternatives a decrease in demand for commercial office space. Cushmanto a mandate, including incentivizing employees to obtain the and Wakefield, one of the worlds largest real estate serviceWhile the full impact of COVID-19 on the commercial office realCOVID-19 vaccine. In that situation, the employer must engage in estate market and downtown economies will be unknown foran individualized analysis:vaccine. For example, employers may wish to consider offering firms, recently conducted a study about the future of the officepaid leave to obtain the vaccine or providing a small bonus or real estate market. One of the findings from the study is thatsome time, the data and anecdotal evidence available provide there may be a reversal of the pre-pandemic trend to designatehope for an eventual return to pre-pandemic life.Determine if the unvaccinated employee poses a directother benefit upon vaccination. less office space to each employee. This trend was the productMoss and Barnett offices remain open in Minneapolisthreat to the worksite.Conclusionof the open office concepta design aesthetic focused onand St. Cloud to meet client needs and provide highIf a direct threat exists, consider available reasonable large common areas and eliminating individual offices. But in aThis is an emerging area of law, and new issues may arise as quality legal services.post-pandemic world, more space will be needed per employeeaccommodations to eliminate or reduce the threatemployers implement COVID-19 vaccination policies. To better to adequately socially distance, which could actually result in an(e.g., mask wearing, social distancing, schedule changes,understand the options available to your workplace, please increased demand for commercial office space.and isolation to a particular work area). Only if therecontact your attorney at Moss & Barnett. is no way for the employer to provide reasonable A Promising PredictionChelsy M. Jantsch accommodations can the unvaccinated employee be According to the Cushman and Wakefield study referenced above,612-877-5286|Chelsy.Jantsch@lawmoss.com excluded from the workplace. Megan J. Renslowthe office real estate market will recover, albeit gradually. The firmLawMoss.com/people-chelsy-m-jantschpredicted that global office vacancies will likely return to pre-COVIDUnder the ADA, employers must also be mindful when requesting612-877-5450|Megan.Renslow@lawmoss.comlevels by the year 2025. This prediction is supported by the fact thatChelsy M. Jantsch is a member of our multifamily and commercialproof of vaccination. Although the vaccine itself is not a medicalLawMoss.com/people-megan-j-renslowlarge companies like Facebook and Amazon have continued toreal estate finance group. She has extensive experience representingexamination and asking for proof of the vaccination is not a Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, and life insurance lenders in the financing ofMegan J. Renslow is a member of our litigation team. She assists acquire and grow their office space during the pandemic. multifamily and commercial projects around the country.disability-related inquiry, subsequent questions regarding whybusiness and individuals with commercial litigation disputes. 6 7'