Paid Sick Leave in Minnesota

A unanimous Minneapolis City Council passed an historic paid sick leave ordinance on May 27, 2016, which Mayor Betsy Hodges quickly signed. St. Paul appears close to passing its own ordinance with a draft ordinance recently being sent out for public comment. The Minnesota legislature also considered paid sick leave this session. These new and planned laws impact all employers, large and small, especially in the Twin Cities.

The Minneapolis Ordinance takes effect next year on July 1, 2017. Even then, the penalties do not kick in for first time violators for another year in order to let employers acclimate to the new ordinance. The ordinance requires employers of six or more employees to offer paid sick leave while employers of five or less employees have to provide unpaid leave. The leave accrues over time and, for new employers1, additional time is permitted before the leave accrues. Employees may accrue 48 hours of leave per year and may have up to 80 hours total with a carryover from a previous year. The ordinance requires careful tracking of hours and documenting of leave entitlements. The leave may be used for an employee's own illness, illness of a family member, and other things, such as absence related to domestic abuse and court issues regarding domestic abuse, sexual assault or stalking. Employers violating the ordinance will ultimately face damages of reinstatement and back pay to an employee, crediting or payment of sick time which could be doubled, an administrative penalty of $1,500, as well as a daily fine of $50 and attorney fees and costs. The ordinance is only briefly summarized here and employers should check with their E&U attorney for more information.

The proposed St. Paul Ordinance is slated for a first reading by the St. Paul City Council on August 3, 2016. Any person with public comments on the proposed ordinance is asked to share them by July 15, 2016. The draft ordinance accrues sick time at the same rate as the Minneapolis Ordinance and uses the same maximum cap of 80 hours. However, all employers must offer paid leave and there is no unpaid leave exception for very small employers as found in Minneapolis. The draft ordinance also provides for damages, penalties and attorney fees and costs for violations, creating an expensive sanction for noncompliant employers. As noted, this ordinance is only in draft form but we suspect its final form will be similar to that which passed in Minneapolis.

On May 11, 2016, the Minnesota Senate considered a tax bill which included a system similar to unemployment insurance benefits to provide paid family leave of up to 12 weeks for certain situations, such as childbirth and the serious health condition of family members. Presently, only three states, California, New Jersey and Rhode Island, provide some sort of paid family leave. The bill passed the Senate on a partisan vote with all Republicans voting against the bill. The bill would apply to employers of 21 or more employees and would be funded by taxing Minnesota employers and employees. While the bill ultimately did not become law, it is expected to resurface in future legislative sessions.

Please contact Engelmeier & Umanah for any questions or assistance you need with this new ordinance or any of your employment law needs.

1A "new employer" is one that has been in business for less than a year.