Minneapolis and St. Paul Sick-Leave Ordinances | Attorney Aaron Hall

Minneapolis and St. Paul Sick-Leave Ordinances

Governor Dayton vetoes Uniform Labor Standards Act; Mpls. and St. Paul Mandatory Sick and Safe Leave Ordinances To Take Effect July 1

As expected, Governor Dayton has vetoed the Uniform Labor Standards Act which was passed Thursday by both houses of the Minnesota Legislature. Among other things, the bill would have preempted city ordinances imposing higher a minimum wage rate than required by state law and mandatory paid sick and safe leave for certain employees. With the veto, the preemption effort effectively is dead, at least until the next legislative sessions.

What this means is that effective July 1, Minneapolis and St. Paul will become the first major Midwestern cities to enact ordinances mandating that employers operating within their respective boundaries provide paid sick and safe leave for their employees. The ordinances each require employers, regardless of location, to provide sick and safe leave for any employee who works more than 80 hours per year within the respective city’s limits.

A court challenge to the Minneapolis ordinance was partially successful, but only to the extent that the ordinance applied, not only employees of employers located in the city limits, but also to any employee of an employer located outside the city if the employee worked at least 80 hours per year within the city limits (e.g., delivery drivers, home service and repair providers, etc.). A Hennepin County District Court judge granted a temporary injunction preventing the city from enforcing the measure against employers located outside city limits. A reconsideration request and/or an appeal of that ruling is likely.

In the meantime, Minneapolis and St. Paul employers that have not already done so, should take steps to comply with the ordinances. It is worth noting that although the twin city ordinances share many significant features, they are not identical twins.

Summary of Minneapolis & St. Paul Ordinances

Both ordinances go into effect on July 1, 2017, and share the following features:

  • Sick and safe leave must be provided to employees who work at least 80 hours per year (an average of about 1.5 hours per week) within city limits.
  • Eligible employees must be offered paid sick and safe time accruing at the rate of at least one hour for every 30 hours worked.
  • Sick and safe time may be capped at 48 hours per year.
  • Employees must be allowed to accrue and bank up to 80 hours total.
  • Sick and safe time begins to accrue on the first day of employment, although employers may implement a waiting period of up to 90 days before the employee may use the leave.
  • Employers may require that sick and safe leave be used in minimum increments of up to four hours, if consistent with any paid non-sick leave policy.
  • Sick and safe leave may be used for the mental or physical health condition of the employee or a family member (broadly defined), absences due to various issues relating to domestic abuse, sexual assault or stalking of the employee or a family member and for various public health and weather-related issues.
  • Employers may require documentation for sick and safe leave unless the leave is for fewer than four consecutive days.
  • Employers must post notices, in the form approved by each city, of employee rights under the ordinances on bulletin boards and in employee handbooks.
  • Records of employee hours worked within the border of each city and the accrual and use of sick and safe time for eligible employees must be maintained for three years. Employers that do not maintain such records will be presumed to be in violation of the ordinances.
  • Employers of construction employees will be deemed compliant under both ordinances by paying at least the state prevailing wage or the rate required in an applicable registered apprenticeship agreement, regardless of whether the project is public or private.
  • PTO policies that otherwise comply with the sick and safe time requirements may remain in effect.

The differences are few, but they are not insignificant, particularly given the proximity of the cities and the number of employees that will fall within the protections of both ordinances. The differences include:

Exemptions

The Minneapolis ordinance exempts employers with fewer than five employees from the paid leave requirements. Those with five or fewer employees, however, must provide 48 hours of unpaid leave per year.

The St. Paul Ordinance is effective July 1, 2017, for employers with more than 23 employees and January 1, 2018, for the remainder.

St. Paul provides no exemption to the paid leave requirement for small employers.

Minneapolis has exemptions for certain on-call employees. St. Paul does not.

The Minneapolis ordinance allows employers operating under a collective bargaining agreement to negotiate alternate means of meeting the goals of the ordinance. St. Paul’s version expresses no such exception.

Records

Minneapolis requires employers to maintain records for each employee showing accrued and used safe and sick time “for each day of the workweek.” St. Paul does not require a day-by-day record.

Startups

In Minneapolis, startup businesses are exempt from paid leave requirements for their first 12 months of operation. In St. Paul, the cutoff is six months.

In both cities, eligible employees are entitled to unpaid leave during these periods.

Enforcement

St. Paul’s ordinance provides a private right of action for retaliation. The Minneapolis ordinance prohibits retaliation but does not expressly provide for a private cause of action.

Recommendations

All organizations doing business in Minnesota should determine whether they have any employees who could arguably be covered by either city’s sick and safe leave requirements and take appropriate measure to ensure compliance, among them:

  • Review employee handbooks and other personnel, payroll and leave recording policies, practices and procedures to ensure compliance with these ordinances – covered employers with employee handbooks will be required to include appropriate notices in them.
  • Comply with record-keeping, notice and disclosure requirements – even employers with PTO policies that comply with the ordinances’ accrual and cap requirements must maintain detailed records of entitlement and use.