The Supreme Court of Minnesota recently upheld the Minneapolis Sick and Safe Time Ordinance, holding that (1) state law does not preempt the Ordinance and (2) that it may apply to employers located outside of Minneapolis who have employees working within the city. The Ordinance is very broad: If you are employed or employ others in Minneapolis, then the Ordinance may affect your rights and responsibilities.
What is the Purpose of the Ordinance?
When the Minneapolis City Council passed the Ordinance in 2016, 41% of employees in the City lacked access to sick leave. Many of them worked in lower-paying positions with high public contact, such as the foodservice industry. Time lost to illness, or to care for a sick family member, meant lost wages. The fear of losing income, particularly for those who could least afford it, encouraged employees to report to work while sick—prolonging their illness and potentially exposing the public to infectious diseases.
To Whom does the Ordinance Apply?
To promote a healthier and more productive workforce, and to reduce health care costs generally, the Ordinance requires employers to provide sick and safe time for employees working within the City. Beginning July 1, 2017, employers with six or more employees must provide paid sick and safe time to their employees at their regular rate of pay for the hours the employee chooses to use accrued sick and safe time. Employers with five or fewer employees must also provide sick time, but they may choose to provide it unpaid. An employer’s business size is based on the average number of employees per week during the previous calendar year. New businesses will determine their size based on the average number of employees per week during the first ninety days after its first employee began work.
An employee covered by the Ordinance includes any person working within the geographical boundaries of the City for at least eighty hours in a year. Temporary and part-time employees are included; independent contractors are not.
How does Accrual Work?
Employees accrue a minimum of one hour of sick and safe time for every thirty hours worked within Minneapolis, up to a maximum of forty-eight hours each calendar year. Accrued but unused sick and safe time may be carried over into the following year, but no more than eighty hours may be carried over.
Sick and safe time begins to accrue either (1) on the date of employment or (2) the effective date of the Ordinance (July 1, 2017), whichever is earlier. Employees may use sick and safe time beginning ninety calendar days following the commencement of employment. An employer may satisfy the Ordinance by providing at least forty-eight hours of sick and safe time following the initial ninety days of employment for use by the employee during the first calendar year, and providing at least eighty hours of sick and safe time beginning each subsequent calendar year.
The Ordinance permits the use of sick and safe time for a variety of purposes, including:
- Treatment, recuperation, or preventative care for a medical or mental health condition, illness, or injury of the employee or covered family member;
- To seek law enforcement, counseling, or other services for domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking suffered by the employee or covered family member;
- Care for a family member during the emergency closure of school or place of care, including for inclement weather.
City Council passed the Ordinance in 2016, four years before the outbreak of COVID-19. Recent guidance from the City has confirmed that sick and safe time may be used for coronavirus screening, quarantine, care, and closure of the employee’s place of business or the school or care facility of an employee’s family member.
What does this Mean for Employers?
The Ordinance protects access to sick and safe time by imposing certain duties on employers, including adequate notice and detailed record-keeping. In addition, an employer may not interfere with or deny an employee the use of sick and safe time. However, an employer may require seven or fewer days’ advance notice for foreseeable sick and safe time usage and, if the absence is for more than three days, the employer may require reasonable documentation.
Minneapolis’ Sick and Safe Time Ordinance is long and complicated—the summary above addresses only the most salient points, and only for the Ordinance passed by Minneapolis City Council. A future article will discuss similar Ordinances passed by the cities of St. Paul and Duluth. If you have questions about the Ordinance and its application to you, feel free to contact one of our employment attorneys.
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