St Paul Passes Earned Sick & Safe Time and What it Means for Employers

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St Paul Passes Earned Sick & Safe Time and What it Means for Employers

The St Paul, MN. City Council passed the Earned Sick and Safe Time (ESST) Ordinance on September 7, 2016. The new ordinance requires employers to provide paid time to employees. St Paul is the second city in Minnesota to create mandatory paid sick leave. The St Paul ordinance follows most of the requirements of the Minneapolis Sick and Safe Time Ordinance, but with a few key differences. The purpose of this article is to outline the requirements for compliance with St Paul’s Earned Sick and Safe Time Ordinance and to make it easier for businesses to become compliant.

Important Dates for Compliance

The St Paul ESST ordinance is set to start on July 1, 2017. All businesses who employ 24 or more employee are required to start providing paid sick and safe time to employees. Small businesses, with less than 24 employees, have until July 1, 2018 to become compliant.

Covered Employees under ESST

Any employee who works in the city of St Paul 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 St Paul city limits, but the employee works inside city limits 80 hours or more a year. Although not specifically mentioned in the ordinance, seasonal employees would also be covered once they work for 80 hours in the city of St Paul. All types and sizes of businesses are required to comply with the sick leave requirement. Even an individual who hires another individual is required to provide paid sick and safe time. It is important to note that individuals temporarily hired through a staffing agency is considered to be the employee of the staffing agency. This makes it important for staffing agencies to track temp employee hours and to provide sick leave.

Exclusions to Earned Sick & Safe Time

Independent contractors are excluded from ESST. Also excluded is all Federal Government employees, Minnesota State employees, and all local city and county government workers. The City of St Paul 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. First, paid sick leave can be used for the employee’s mental, or physical illness, or any health condition or illness. It is allowed for medical diagnosis, care, treatment, or preventative care.

Second, sick leave can be used in the cases of domestic violence, stalking or sexual assault. Victims can use sick and safe time for medical care, to obtain services from a victims services organization, and for counseling, both physiological and other. They can also use safe time for relocation and to obtain legal advice or to seek legal action. Legal action includes both criminal and civil redress.

Third, sick time can be used when a place of business is closed for a public health hazard or emergency. This would include any infectious disease, biotoxin, or hazardous material. Fourth, 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. Lastly, 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. 

  • Mental or Physical Illness, injury, or health condition: to obtain a medical diagnosis, care, treatment or preventative care
  • When a place of business, school, or place of care is closed for a public health hazard or emergency
  • When a place of business, school or place of care is closed due to poor weather, loss of power, water, heat or any other unexpected closure
  • When the employee or employee’s family member is a victim of Domestic violence, Sexual assault, or stalking
    • medical care or treatment for physical or psychological injuries or disabilities
    • To obtain services from a victims services organization
    • Counseling
    • To relocate, temporarily or permanently,
    • Legal recourse, including preparing for and participating in legal or criminal proceedings

Family Member Definitions

St Paul allows for broader definitions of family than Minneapolis. It  recognizes blood, adopted, foster and step relationships. Specific relationships recognized are child, parent, parent-in-law, sibling, grandchild, grandparent, spouse and registered domestic partner. The ESST ordinance also recognizes affinity relationships where the relationship is akin to a family member.

  • Child: biological, foster, adopted, step
  • Parent: Inlaws
  • Sibling
  • Spouse, inlcuding domstic partners
  • Grandchildren and Grandparents
  • Any relationship akin to a family member

Accrual of Safe and Sick Time

Under the St Paul, MN ESST, 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. 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. Unlike the Minneapolis ordinance, the St Paul ordinance does not specify if exempt employee hours need to be tracked. 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 Small and New Businesses

St Paul provides an extra year for small businesses to become compliant with the ESST. The new ordinance takes effect on July 1, 2017. However, small businesses have an extra 12 months to become compliant with the new law. Small businesses are considered businesses who employ 23 or less employees.

Additionally new businesses are allowed a 6 month grace period to start providing paid sick and safe time leave. During the first 6 months, employers may provide employees with unpaid sick and safe time off. After 6 months, employers are required to start providing paid sick and safe time leave. This grace period automatically expires on January 1, 2023. After that date new businesses will no longer receive a grace period for sick leave. This is different from the Minneapolis sick and safe time law which allows a 12 month grace for new businesses.

Sick Leave Bank and Usage

The St Paul Sick Leave Ordinance does not appear to limit the usage amount that an employee can use in a given year. For example, if an employee has not used sick leave for several years and is rolling the full 80 hours to a new 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 back caps out at 80 hours, including any rolled sick leave. Employers are not required to pay out unused sick leave when an employee leaves.

Employees who leave an employer and return to work within 90 days are eligible for all their previously accrued and unused sick leave. Additionally, employees who stay with the same employer, but are transferred outside of St Paul 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 St Paul, then they are entitled to their accrued sick leave for the 3 years if they transfer back or return to St Paul with that same employer.

Front Loading

The St Paul Ordinance allows for front loading, but does not provide any incentives for front loading. Employers who choose to front load must front load the full 48 hours of paid sick leave the first year and at least 80 hours of sick leave in subsequent years.

Coordinating with Paid Time Off Policies

The St Paul Sick and Safe Time Ordinance 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

St Paul 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. They can allow for smaller usages of the sick leave use as well.

Reasonable Documentation

Employees are not required to find a substitute or replacement worker when taking sick leave. Further, employers are allowed to require reasonable documentation. The St Paul law 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 St Paul 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.

The employer must maintain confidentiality of the employee’s use of sick and safe time usage. The only exception for the employer disclosing any information obtained about the employee’s sick leave is if the employee approves for the disclosure, if a court order demands the information, or as allowed by state or federal law.

Earned Sick and Safe TIme

Anti Retaliation

St Paul has a anti-retaliation clause that prohibits any discrimination or ill treatment against any employee who asserts their rights under the ESST 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. On the first offence to the employee, employers will pay and additional minimum fine of $250 or double the amount of any payment withheld, whichever is greater, to the employee. Second offences include the same fine to the employee plus an additional $1,000 fee payable to the city. Third violations include a minimum of $1,000 in damages to the employee. Fourth and subsequent violations include the same payment to the employee plus a $1,000 fine to the city.

In addition, St Paul allows employees to sue their employers if they feel that they have been retaliated against for using ESST. This gives employees the decision of filing a complaint with the city or directly suing the employer. 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 significant language used by 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. This can be done through an online system that the employee accesses or it can be reported on each paystub. The reporting has to include the earned sick leave available to the employee and the used sick and safe leave.

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 St Paul for investigating complaints and also to employees who request the information.

Let WorkforceHub Help

Businesses who have employees in St Paul or Minneapolis, and a growing list of other cities 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. WorkforceHub 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 November 30, 2016

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