Minneapolis Passes Earned Sick & Safe Time- First in the State

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Minneapolis Passes Earned Sick & Safe Time- First in the State

Minneapolis, MN. passed an update to Title 2 of the Workplace Regulations Ordinance, instituting the  Sick and Safe Time Ordinance on May 26, 2016. The new ordinance requires employers to provide paid time to employees. Minneapolis is the first city in Minnesota to create mandatory paid sick leave. St Paul followed just a few months later and followed much of the Minneapolis Sick and Safe Time Ordinance Provisions, but with a few key differences. However, both laws would soon be under fire from the State legislature and legal battles. The purpose of this article is to outline the requirements for compliance with Minneapolis’ Sick and Safe Time Ordinance and to make it easier for businesses to become compliant.

Important Dates for Compliance

The Minneapolis Sick and Safe Time Ordinance is set to start on July 1, 2017. All businesses who employ six or more employee are required to start providing paid sick and safe time to employees. Small businesses, with less than six employees are exempt from paying sick leave time, but have to provide unpaid sick leave to their employees. This is different from the St Paul ordinance which gives no employer exceptions and requires that one individual employing another person provide sick leave.

Covered Employees under the new sick leave laws

Any employee who works in the city of Minneapolis for at least 80 hours during the year for the same employer is covered. That includes employees covered are full time, part-time, and temporary employees. It also includes employees whose employers are located outside of Minneapolis city limits, but the employee works inside city limits 80 hours or more a year. Seasonal employees are not specifically identified in the ordinance, but would also be covered if they work 80 hours or more in the city limits in a given year.

Exclusions to Earned Sick & Safe Time

Independent contractors are excluded from the ordinance. Also excluded is all Federal Government employees, Minnesota State employees, and all local city and county government workers. The ordinance also gives construction companies an exemption if construction workers are paid at least the prevailing wage or wage required by the apprenticeship agreement. The City of Minneapolis is not exempt and their workers do fall under the new paid sick and safe time laws.

Allowable Uses for Earned Sick and Safe Time Leave

Sick and Safe Leave is allowed for five main reasons. All of the reasons are allowed for the employee or for a family member’s need. Sick time covers both mental and physical illness, injury or health condition. It also covers medical diagnosis, care, treatment and preventative care. Public health hazards and emergencies are covered, including when work places, schools, or places of care are closed for a public health hazard. Safe time includes when a place of work, school, or care is closed due to poor weather, loss of power, heat, water or other unexpected closure. Safe time also includes a variety of reasons related to domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking. Those include time for the victim to obtain medical care related to a physical or psychological injury or disability, obtain services from a victims service organization, seek legal action, to relocate, or to obtain counsiling. 

  • Mental, or physical illness, or any health condition or illness. It is allowed for medical diagnosis, care, treatment, or preventative care.
  • Domestic abuse, stalking or sexual assault.
    • Victims can use sick and safe time for medical care for the injury or disability caused by the abuse
    • to obtain services from a victims services organization
    • For counseling, both physiological and other.
    • To relocate, permanently or temporarily
    • To obtain legal advice or to seek legal action. Legal action includes both criminal and civil redress. It also includes preparing for and participating in the legal proceedings.
  • When a place of business is closed for a public health hazard or emergency. This would include any infectious disease, biotoxin, or hazardous material.
  • Employees can use paid leave to care for a family member whose school has been closed by a public officer for the health of the community.
  • Employees can also use their leave to care for a family member whose school or work has been closed due to poor weather, loss of power, heat or water, and any other unexpected closure
  • Employees are allowed to use their paid sick leave for themselves or a family member.

Family Member Definitions

Minneapolis recognizes blood, adopted, foster and step relationships. Specific relationships recognized are child, ward, guardian, parent, parent-in-law, sibling, grandchild, grandparent, spouse and registered domestic partner. Family members are also recognized as individuals that are part of the employee’s household.  Family members covered under sick and safe time uses include children, biological, adopted, step children, foster, guardian, wards, and adult children. Spouses, siblings, parents, including in-laws and step parents, grandchildren and grandparents are all included for sick and safe time use. Additionally, members of the employee’s household and registered domestic partners are included.

  • Children: biological, adopted, step, foster, legal wards.
  • Spouses: Including domestic partners
  • Parents: Including in-law parents, foster parents, and guardians
  • Siblings
  • Grandchildren and Grandparents.

Accrual of Safe and Sick Time

Under the Minneapolis sick and safe time ordinance, employees immediately start accruing paid sick and safe time as soon as they start employment. Employees earn 1 hour of sick and safe time for every 30 hours of time worked. Accrual is only earned in full hour increments. Employees can earn up to 48 hours of paid time off each year. Employers can limit an employee’s use of sick and safe time for the first 90 days of employment. However, unused paid time can be rolled to the following year. Employees can accrue up to a total of 80 hours of earned sick and safe time. Once an employee has accrued 80 hours of paid sick and safe time, they stop accruing more hours until their sick bank drops to under 80 hours. The Minneapolis ordinance assumes that all overtime-exempt employees work 40 hours a week and does not require the tracking of hours for those employees for sick and safe time leave purposes.

Grace Period for New Businesses

New businesses are allowed a 12 month grace period to start providing paid sick and safe time leave. This is regardless of the new businesses size. The only exception to this rule is chain establishments. Chain establishments are defined as a business with 2 or more locations and the same trade name. During the first 12 months, employers may provide employees with unpaid sick and safe time off. After 12 months, employers are required to start providing paid sick and safe time leave. This grace period automatically expires on June 1, 2022. After that date new businesses will no longer receive a grace period for sick leave. This is different from the St Paul earned sick and safe time law, which allows a 6 month grace for new businesses and has goes until January 2023.

Sick Leave Bank and Usage

The Minneapolis Sick and Safe Time Ordinance does not appear to limit the usage amount that an employee can use in a given year. Employees can accrue up to 48 hours a year. The Sick and Safe Time Ordinance allows employees to roll unused hours. Employees can have up to 80 hours of accrued sick and safe time at any given time. However, if an employee has not used sick leave for several years, they would have the full 80 hours of sick time accrued. If it was the beginning of the year, that employee could theoretically use the full 80 hours of sick leave in January. The employee would then be eligible to earn up to the 48 hours of new sick leave in the rest of the year and to use that sick leave in the same year. The caps are on the accrual limits. Employees may only accrue 48 hours a year. Their sick leave accrual caps out at 80 hours which would include any rolled sick leave. Employers are not required to pay out unused sick leave when an employee leaves.

Employees are able to maintain accrued and unused sick leave after leaving an employer for up to 90 days. If they return to work within 90 days, then the unused, but earned sick leave must be reinstated back to the employee. Additionally, employees who transfer outside the city, but who stay with the same employer, retain a sick leave bank for 3 years. If the employer doesn’t allow them to use their accrued sick leave when they are working outside of Minneapolis, then they are entitled to their accrued sick leave for the 3 years if they transfer back or return to Minneapolis with that same employer. Further, employers are not required to payout employees upon termination of employment.

Coordinating with Paid Time Off Policies

Both the Minneapolis and Paul Sick and Safe Time Ordinances allows employers to provide paid time off  (PTO) in lieu of sick leave. The employer must allow the employee to use their PTO for all the reasons provided in the ordinance. Additionally, the employer must provide the required number of hours of PTO that the St Paul Ordinance requires.

Minimum Usage

Minneapolis allows employers to set minimum usage limits on paid sick leave. However, employers cannot require blocks of sick time to be greater than 4 hour increments. Businesses can allow for smaller usages of the sick leave use as well.

Reasonable Documentation

The ordinance specifies that employees are not required to find a substitute or replacement worker when taking sick leave. However, when possible, employers can require an employee to give a 7 day notice for sick leave. This advanced notice does not apply in unforeseeable cases. Employers are also allowed to have a policy that allows employees to trade shifts.

Further, employers are allowed to require reasonable documentation. The Minneapolis ordinance doesn’t define specifically what is reasonable. However, it does allow employers to ask for documentation to ensure that sick leave used in blocks of 3 days or more is used in accordance with the law. It would be wise for employers to not ask for more documentation than is needed to ensure compliance with the uses of sick leave by the employee.

Confidentiality is still vital and any information that an employer may obtain regarding the use of sick or safe time must be maintained as confidential. There are only a few exceptions for the employer disclosing any information obtained about the employee’s sick leave is if the employee approves for the disclosure, or if a court order demands the information, or as allowed by state or federal law.

Anti Retaliation

Minneapolis has a anti-retaliation clause that prohibits any discrimination or ill treatment against any employee who asserts their rights under the sick and safe time act. This includes discharge, threats to discharge, demote, suspend, or discriminate in any way against the employee.

Fines and Remedies provided by the Sick and Safe Time Ordinance

In addition to the payment of unpaid sick leave owed, compensation for damages is due to the employee. Any person suspecting a violation may report the violation to the city within 365 days of the violation.  If the violation occurs before July 1, 2018, then the Department may mediate the dispute. Violations during this time will be punishable by a written warning. Any subsequent violations and any violations after July 1, 2018 may have several penalties.

These penalties include reinstatement of back pay. Leave that was withheld will be credited back to the employee, plus the cost of the leave multiplied by 2 or $250, whichever is greater. Payment of the withheld leave plus recompense of double the leave or $250, whichever is greater. Businesses can be fined $1500, which is paid to the employee, for non-disclosure, interference, or retaliation. An additional daily fine of $50 to the employee for non-disclosure if the business doesn’t rectify it within 5 days of notice from the Department. All of the fines and penalties are cumulative.

One interesting difference between the Minneapolis and St Paul ordinances is that the St Paul ordinance allows employees to take civil suit against employers for violation of the earned sick and safe time ordinance. This is an options that the Minneapolis ordinance doesn’t have.

Notification and Records

Employers are required to notify new and existing employees of their rights under the ordinance. Employers are also required to display a poster in an easily viewable place in English and any other language used by 5% or more of the employees. Additionally, employers are required to post the notice in their employee handbook.

Additionally, employers are required to report employees accrued and used sick leave time to employees at the employee’s request. Reports have to include the employee’s current amount of accrued sick leave and the amount of used sick and safe time. This requirement can be met by publishing it on the employee’s pay stub or by providing an online system where the employee’s can access their own information. Other reasonable manners can also satisfy the requirement.  

Employers are required to maintain records for a minimum of three years. Records must include the hours worked by the employee, accrual of sick and safe leave and the use of sick and safe leave. This makes it especially important for employers to have a good time keeping and records system in place. Records must be made available to the City of Minneapolis for investigating complaints and also to employees who request the information.

Employers who do not allow employees to accrue sick and safe time outside the city must track the time that employees spend in Minneapolis. If employers allow employees to earn sick and safe time outside the city limits, then tracking is not necessary.

Let SwipeClock Help

Businesses who have employees in both Minneapolis and St Paul may have to comply with multiple conflicting City ordinances defining Sick leave accrual and usage laws. Additionally, these businesses have to also comply with Federal Overtime Laws, the Family Leave Medical Act and any other national or local laws that are enacted. SwipeClock provides a comprehensive array of workforce management and time tracking tools that can help businesses to more easily stay in compliance with local and national laws. Records are effortlessly kept for years and accrual is automatically tracked and reported to employees according to the state and city laws. Additionally, with geo-timekeeping clocks, businesses can effortlessly track time worked in specific cities to ensure compliance.

Written by Annemaria Duran. Last updated December 15, 2016

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