The Minnesota Vulnerable Adults Act (the “MVAA”) protects Minnesota’s most vulnerable citizens from maltreatment by implementing a mandatory reporting scheme. Knowledge of the MVAA is vital not only for nursing homes, long-term care facilities, women’s shelters, and the kinds of care facilities that house vulnerable adults, but also for businesses, such as property managers, that render on-site services to those facilities.
The MVAA Requires Mandated Reporters to Report Maltreatment of Vulnerable Adults
The MVAA, Minn. Stat. §§ 245A.65, 609.234, 626.557, and 626.5572, protects adults who are vulnerable to maltreatment as a result of physical or mental disability or dependency on institutional services. The MVAA primarily affects three kinds of parties: facilities, mandatory reporters, and vulnerable adults. See Minn. Stat. §§ 626.5572, subds. 6, 16, & 21 (defining “facility,” “mandated reporter,” and “vulnerable adult”).
The MVAA protects vulnerable adults from “maltreatment,” which includes abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation. See Minn. Stat. § 626.5572, subds. 2, 9, 15, 17 (defining “abuse,” “financial exploitation,” “maltreatment,” and “neglect” respectively). Where maltreatment has occurred, the MVAA requires “mandated reporters” to report such maltreatment. Under the MVAA:
“Mandated reporter” means a professional or professional’s delegate while engaged in: (1) social services; (2) law enforcement; (3) education; (4) the care of vulnerable adults; (5) any of the occupations referred to in section 214.01, subdivision 2; (6) an employee of a rehabilitation facility certified by the commissioner of jobs and training for vocational rehabilitation; (7) an employee or person providing services in a facility as defined in subdivision 6; or (8) a person that performs the duties of the medical examiner or coroner.
Minn. Stat. § 626.5572, subd. 16. Where a mandated reporter has reason to believe that a vulnerable adult has been maltreated, the reporter shall immediately report the information to the “common entry point.” Minn. Stat. § 626.557, subd. 3. The “common entry point” is the Minnesota Adult Abuse Reporting Center (“MAARC”) hotline.
Once MAARC has received a report, it shall be passed along to the appropriate county, state, or law enforcement agency for investigation and remedial action.
Minnesota Property Managers Are Not Mandatory Reporters Under the MVAA
The MVAA does not address property management companies or their caretakers, maintenance technicians, or other personnel. Neither property management companies nor their personnel are listed as mandatory reporters. See Minn. Stat. § 626.5572, subd. 16 (listing eight narrow categories of people who are mandatory reporters).
The MVAA’s general focus appears to be “license holders”—entities that hold some form of a home care license issued by the Minnesota commissioner of health to be a home care provider. See Minn. Stat. § 245A.65, subd. 1 (requiring all “license holders” to develop and enforce policies and procedures related to suspected or alleged maltreatment). If a property management company provides additional caregiver services as a home care provider, therefore, then the company (or its personnel) could be a mandatory reporter. Home care providers are required to be licensed under Minnesota law. See Minn. Stat. § 144A.43, subd. 4.
In most cases, a typical Minnesota property management company will not be licensed as a home care provider and, therefore, its personnel will not be considered “mandatory reporters” under the MVAA. Thus, if a property manager is under contract with a facility (e.g., nursing home) that houses vulnerable adults, and a maintenance technician working for the property manager observes maltreatment or abuse of a vulnerable adult at the facility, the individual typically will not be required to report the incident under the MVAA. (Of course, it may be wise for the employee to report the abuse to the appropriate management executive of the facility so appropriate action can be taken.)
If the property management firm’s employee is observed abusing a vulnerable adult at the facility, then it is likely the abuse will be reported under the MVAA, and an investigation will be triggered. Once the property management firm becomes aware that one of its employees has been accused of abusing a vulnerable adult under the MVAA or otherwise, the firm should conduct a thorough investigation.
If the complaint of maltreatment is supported by the evidence, the property management firm should take prompt and appropriate corrective action, such as disciplining or terminating the employee. Failing to take corrective action against an employee credibly accused of abusing a vulnerable adult may expose the property manager to potential liability, both with respect to the original victim, and future victims who might be abused or mistreated by the employee. In the latter case, the property manager may face potential liability under the theory of “negligent retention.” Under Minnesota law, an employer can be held liable if it retains, without appropriate action, an employee whom it knew or should have known was unfit for duty, and that employee later injures another person. See generally LM v. Karlson, 646 N.W.2d 537, 545 (Minn. Ct. App. 2002); Bruchas v. Preventive Care, Inc., 553 N.W.2d 440 (Minn. Ct. App. 1996) (requiring there be some threat of physical injury or actual physical injury in claims for negligent retention); Yunker v. Honeywell, 496 N.W.2d 419, 424 (Minn. Ct. App. 1993).
If the property management firm concludes, following a thorough investigation, that the employee is innocent, it should carefully document the basis for its findings. Even then, it would be wise for the property manager to remind the employee of the organization’s policies prohibiting abuse, harassment, violence, or other inappropriate conduct with respect to co-workers, members of the public, tenants, and residents of facilities under contract.
Organizations, such as property management firms, that are in direct contact with vulnerable adults should carefully review their obligations under the MVAA. If your property management firm is under contract with facilities that serve vulnerable adults, or one of your employees has been accused of maltreatment of a vulnerable adult, contact one of the Minnesota employment law attorneys of Trepanier MacGillis Battina P.A.
About the Author: Minnesota employment attorney Craig W. Trepanier represents clients including property management firms in a broad range of employment law matters, including background checks, employment contracts, non-compete agreements, employee handbooks, discrimination and harassment, unpaid wages and commissions, discipline and discharge, and wrongful termination. Craig may be reached at 612.455.0502 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Trepanier MacGillis Battina P.A. is a Minnesota employment law firm located in Minneapolis, Minnesota.