In late July 2019, the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) released an update to its FAQ on Minnesota’s new wage theft law, including 37 new questions and answers to further clarify what is expected of employers under the statute. The new FAQ provides important guidance on several key points, while at the same time leaving other important questions unanswered. The following is a summary of several of the most commonly asked questions and DLI’s answers.
In early 2018, Minnesota federal courts issued two decisions dismissing so-called “drive-by” disability access lawsuits under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). That trend has continued in 2019. In fact, in just the past two months, courts in Minnesota have dismissed, in whole or in part, no fewer than six Title III cases, again reminding business owners that liability is far from automatic in these lawsuits.
Joining a chorus of cities and states addressing concerns involving employers’ failure to properly calculate employees’ pay, or to pay them at all, allowing employees to work “off the clock,” or take unauthorized or illegal deductions, on August 8, 2019, the City of Minneapolis enacted an ordinance prohibiting “wage theft,” which will go into effect on January 1, 2020.
In our previous article, we summarized the key provisions of Minnesota’s new “wage theft” law. This article focuses specifically on the notices and disclosures employers are required to provide to their employees under the law, as well as new recordkeeping requirements.
The Minnesota Legislature wrapped up its 2019 legislative session with a one-day special session last month that resulted in the passage of an omnibus appropriations bill, the Jobs and Economic Development Omnibus. The legislation includes new and surprising notice and recordkeeping mandates for Minnesota employers and creates new civil and criminal penalties for “wage theft.” In addition, it grants more authority to the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) to enforce compliance with the new statute.
As the 2019 regular session of the Minnesota Legislature draws to a close, lawmakers in St. Paul are deadlocked on the budget bill. As a result, many of the bills we reported on in our previous articles are stalled in committee or unlikely to see final action this year. The legislature must end its regular session on Monday, May 20, 2019, and it’s unclear whether there will be a special session.
In the latest chapter of the Minneapolis Sick and Safe time ordinance saga, the Minnesota Court of Appeals has ended an injunction issued by a lower court that limited the ordinance to employers located within the city of Minneapolis.
The Minnesota Supreme Court recently issued two decisions affecting employers in the state. In one, the high court overruled a 30-year-old precedent that excluded disabilities covered by the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Act from the disability discrimination provisions of the Minnesota Human Rights Act. In the other, the court held that the Minnesota Human Rights Act does not require that employers engage in an interactive process when considering reasonable accommodations for an employee with a disability.
In part one of this series, we reported on several legislative developments in Minnesota that could impact employers. Now the Minnesota Legislature has proposed more bills affecting the workplace. These bills could alter the standard for sexual harassment, preempt local wage and sick leave laws, prohibit discrimination against unemployed job applicants, change the definition of “wage theft,” and further gender equality legislation.
The Minnesota Legislature is in session through May 20, 2019. This session promises to be very active with numerous bills affecting employers and the workplace. Major bills include paid leaves of absence (including family and sick leave), restrictions on an employer’s ability to access social media accounts, right-to-work legislation, vaccination exemptions, wage theft, and the legal standard for sexual harassment, and making available to a complaining party more information regarding the employer’s investigation and corrective action.
Employers may soon find themselves reviewing and revising health plan master documents and summary plan descriptions (SPDs) and administrative service agreements with respect to an obscure claims administration practice known as “cross-plan offsetting”—following a recent federal appeals court ruling.
Continuing a national trend, on May 30, 2018, the Duluth City Council enacted an ordinance requiring private businesses that employ five or more employees to provide paid sick and safe leave to employees.
Minimum wage rates for employees of the largest businesses in St. Paul will increase to $15 per hour on July 1, 2022.
In 2019, a number of states’ minimum wage rates will increase.
On July 1, 2018, a number of states’ and localities’ minimum wage increases went into effect.
After suffering two embarrassing departures of its members in the wake of sexual harassment complaints by staffers and female members, the Minnesota Legislature is considering amending the state’s discrimination statute to state that a plaintiff need not prove that the sexual harassment was “severe or pervasive.”
In two rulings arising in Minnesota in March of 2018, federal courts reminded litigants that business owners have various defenses that can effectively shut down so-called “drive by” disability access lawsuits prior to trial.
Minimum wage rates for most employees in Minnesota will increase on January 1, 2018. Both the state of Minnesota’s automatic minimum wage hike and a new minimum wage ordinance for workers in the city of Minneapolis will take effect on that date.
In 2018, the federal minimum wage will remain at $7.25 per hour for non-tipped employees and $2.13 per hour for tipped employees. The following table summarizes the statewide minimum wage increases that have been announced for 2018, along with the related changes to the maximum tip credit permitted and minimum cash wage allowed for tipped employees.
On October 11, 2017, the Minnesota Supreme Court issued a decision in Burt v. Rackner, Inc., No. A15-2045 (October 11, 2017), that may have effectively abrogated the long-standing rule of “employment at will” in Minnesota.
On May 23, 2017, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signed into law amendments to the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA) that are intended to curb the flood of “drive-by” disability access lawsuits in the state.
In the waning hours of the 2017 legislative session, Republicans who control both houses of the Minnesota Legislature reached an agreement with Democratic Governor Mark Dayton on a budget bill that removed from a provision that would have preempted Minnesota cities’ safe and sick leave ordinances and other labor standards measures.
As expected, the Uniform State Labor Standards Act (H.F. No. 600)—a Minnesota bill to preempt local employment law ordinances, including the Minneapolis and St. Paul safe and sick leave ordinances—passed in the state House of Representatives on March 2, 2017, by a 76–53 margin. All Republican members of the chamber who were present supported the measure, and they were joined by two Democrats.
On March 1, 2017, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an important decision affirming summary judgment in an age discrimination claim under the Minnesota Human Rights Act. Although the case, Nash v. Optomec, Inc., did not create new law, the appellate court reinforced many important principles that apply not only to age discrimination cases but also other types of discrimination cases.
Employers with employees in Minnesota—and in particular, those with employees in the cities of Minneapolis and/or St. Paul—may be interested in the status of several bills that have been introduced in the Minnesota Legislature addressing the issue of paid leaves of absence, including safe and sick leave.
The battle over paid sick leave and minimum wage ordinances at the municipal level moved to the Minnesota Legislature as its 2017–2018 session kicked off at the end of January. Several bills introduced in the 2017-2018 session would either establish a statewide standard for paid leaves or preempt and prevent municipalities from passing their own ordinances on these subjects.
In Sieden v. Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc., No. 16-1065 (January 26, 2017), the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals reiterated its view that an employee fails to establish pretext for an employer’s adverse employment action where the employer noted and counseled the employee for performance issues long before the alleged protected activity occurred. The court affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to the employer, agreeing that the plaintiff had not demonstrated that the employer’s reason for his discharge was pretextual.
A challenge brought in state court by a coalition of business groups, employers, and the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce seeking a temporary injunction to prevent the Minneapolis Safe and Sick Time Ordinance (No. 2016-040) from taking effect on July 1, 2017, was partially successful. In an order issued on January 19, 2017, Hennepin County District Judge Mel I. Dickstein denied a broad injunction, finding that the city had authority to enact the ordinance, but he granted a temporary injunction preventing its application to employers that are not located within the territorial limits of the city of Minneapolis. The ruling is likely to be appealed by both parties to the Minnesota Court of Appeals and, eventually, to the Minnesota Supreme Court.
Effective January 1, 2017, 29 states plus the District of Columbia will have minimum wage rates that are above the federal minimum wage rate of $7.25 per hour. The District of Columbia will continue to have, as it did last year, one of the highest minimum wage rates in the country at $11.50 per hour until July 1, 2017, and $12.50 per hour after that date. With respect to state minimum wages, Massachusetts and Washington will have the highest minimum wages at $11.00 per hour effective January 1, 2017, with California close behind at $10.50 per hour (for employers with 26 or more employees), effective January 1, 2017, and Connecticut following at $10.10 per hour, effective January 1, 2017.
Minnesota is one of several states that require all employers, both public sector and private sector, to grant time off with pay to employees to vote in the upcoming general election to be held on Tuesday, November 8, 2016.