For more information, view a recorded webinar on this topic here.
Minnesota’s recently enacted Earned Sick and Safe Time (ESST) laws, effective January 1st, 2024, have introduced critical rules regarding paid leave that employers must offer for various reasons. Both employers and employees need to comprehend these new regulations, especially employers who operated under previous local ordinances in cities such as Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth, and Bloomington. This article provides a brief overview of these new state laws, focusing particularly on the aspects of paid leave. For a more comprehensive overview, please reference the recorded webinar linked above.
Basics of ESST Laws
The ESST laws mandate employers in Minnesota to offer paid leave to employees for specific reasons detailed later. These laws are crucial for employers previously subject to local ordinances.
Who is Covered
Under the recently established laws in Minnesota regarding earned sick and safe time, employers in four key cities – Minneapolis, St. Paul, Bloomington, and Duluth – must provide paid leave to eligible employees for specified reasons. In Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Bloomington, private sector businesses that employ one or more individuals are required to comply with sick and safe time laws, regardless of their physical location. However, in Duluth, only private sector businesses with an average of five or more employees per week over the previous year are subjected to these regulations, irrespective of whether these employees work within the city limits.
Regarding employee eligibility, in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Bloomington, individuals, including temporary and part-time employees, who work within the respective city’s geographic boundaries for a minimum of 80 hours per year per employer, are entitled to sick and safe time benefits. On the other hand, Duluth has a distinct eligibility criterion. Employees in Duluth are covered if they work within the city’s geographic boundaries for over 50% of their working hours in a 12-month period. Alternatively, individuals based in Duluth who spend a substantial portion of their working hours in the city, without spending more than 50% of their working time in any other location, are also eligible. These stipulations ensure a broad yet specified range of employees benefit from the sick and safe time provisions.
Before the state laws’ enactment, employers adhered to local ordinances varying across cities. Generally, these ordinances applied to private sector businesses employing one or more individuals, regardless of the businesses’ physical location.
Paid Leave Policies
Local ordinances have specific paid leave mandates. For example, in Minneapolis, businesses with six or more employees must provide paid leave, while those with fewer can offer unpaid leave. On the other hand, St. Paul and Duluth require paid leave for all eligible employees. In Bloomington, businesses with a minimum of five employees must offer paid leave.
Accrual and Carryover Policies
Employees accrue sick and safe time at different rates across cities, with a requirement to allow carryover of unused time, subject to local ordinance caps. Employers have the alternative of front-loading sick and safe time hours as an alternative to accruals and carryovers.
Employers in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Bloomington are allowed to frontload paid leave for employees. In these three cities, during the first benefit year, employers have the option to frontload sick and safe time, providing a minimum of 48 hours of paid leave following an employee’s initial 90 days of employment. For all subsequent benefit years, employers in these cities are required to frontload at least 80 hours of paid leave to meet accrual and carryover requirements stipulated by the law.
In contrast, Duluth’s frontloading provisions are slightly different. Employers in Duluth can also frontload sick and safe time, but they need only provide at least 40 hours following the first 90 days of employment during the first benefit year. In following benefit years, Duluth employers are required to continue frontloading at least 40 hours to comply with accrual and carryover mandates. These structured frontloading policies are designed to streamline the provision of sick and safe time, making it straightforward for employers to administer and for employees to understand and access.
Usage and Notice Requirements
Usage policies for sick and safe time vary, with state laws allowing immediate use upon accrual, differing from some local ordinances. Employers can request notice for foreseeable leaves and must be given as soon as practical for unforeseeable leaves.
Employers must notify employees about their sick and safe time rights and prohibition of retaliation, providing this information in accessible locations and in employees’ primary languages. Record-keeping for three years is essential, with employers required to track hours worked, and sick and safe hours accrued and used.
Sick and safe time can be utilized for various reasons, including mental or physical illness, treatment, diagnosis, preventative care, and absences related to domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking, among others.
Overview of Minnesota ESST
Under state ESST laws, any person working at least 80 hours per year within Minnesota is a covered employee, excluding independent contractors. The law has a broad definition of covered employers, with misclassification of employees leading to significant issues beyond eligibility for sick and safe time leave.
Family Members & Leave Reasons
The Minnesota statute expands the definition of “family member” and encompasses immediate family, nieces, nephews, and one annually designated individual by the employee. Employers should be aware of this expansion as employees begin using this leave.
Accrual, Union Employees, Front-Loading, and PTO Alignment
The law stipulates minimum accrual rates, covers both union and non-union employees, and offers the option for employers to front-load sick and safe time. Employers need to ensure alignment between their existing PTO policies and the new ESST laws.
Use of Earned Time and Documentation
The ESST laws allow the use of earned sick and safe time from employment commencement, with employers able to request documentation for leaves extending beyond three consecutive days.
Employer Notice, Recordkeeping, and Confidentiality
Employers must keep records for at least three years and maintain the confidentiality of sensitive information. They are also required to notify employees of their rights regarding sick and safe time leave, making this information easily accessible.
Impacts, Termination, and Earnings Statement
The ESST laws allow for policies that meet or exceed state requirements, with no obligation for employers to reimburse accrued but unused time upon termination. However, in cases of internal transfers or rehiring, accrued leave should be reinstated. Earnings statements should indicate total accrued, available, and used sick and safe time hours during the pay period.
Addressing Compliance and Specific Scenarios
Employers may need to adjust existing policies to comply with the new laws and should consult with legal experts for specific scenarios. Communication with employees is essential for smooth navigation through transitions, and clear policies should be crafted and communicated effectively.
Given the competitive job market, employers should balance compliance with employee expectations and satisfaction when deciding whether to revise PTO balances or create separate policies for sick and safe time leave. Legal consultation is advised for specific questions and scenarios, ensuring effective and compliant navigation through these transitions.
Understanding and complying with the new ESST laws in Minnesota is essential for employers. This comprehensive overview provides a foundational understanding, but employers are encouraged to seek legal advice for specific scenarios and to ensure compliance. For more information, view a recorded webinar on this topic here.
Material posted on this website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute a legal opinion or medical advice. Contact your legal representative or medical professional for information specific to your legal or medical needs.