On May 27, 2016, after more than six months of public discussion, the Minneapolis City Council unanimously approved an ordinance that will require all employers in the city to provide paid sick and safe leave to most workers. This adds to the patchwork of five states, 23 cities, and one county with paid sick time laws already on the books.
The Minneapolis Sick and Safe Time Ordinance (No. 2016-040), which will take effect on July 1, 2017, will require employers with six or more employees to provide their workers with one hour of paid sick and safe leave for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 48 hours per year. Employees must be allowed to carry over unused sick and safe leave, up to a maximum of 80 hours. There are certain exceptions that apply to healthcare providers and construction workers.
The ordinance is different than many employers’ existing paid time off (PTO) or sick leave policies in that it applies to both part-time and full-time employees, so long as the employees work at least 80 hours per year in Minneapolis.
But, employers are allowed to place certain restrictions on the use of sick and safe leave, such as requiring advance notice for use of such time where possible, and medical documentation for absences greater than three days.
Employers will be required to provide written notices to employees of the new law, in posters and in handbooks.
Changes to Original Draft
There are a number of small, yet significant tweaks to the final version of the ordinance. For example, after the revisions, the ordinance will allow workers to use the leave to care not only for themselves or their family members due to illness or domestic violence, but also to care for their children on days when school is cancelled.
Another change is that companies with five or fewer employees will also be required to provide up to 48 hours of unpaid sick and safe leave—before, the ordinance only applied to businesses with at least six employees, and only required paid sick and safe leave.
New businesses, other than business chains, can offer unpaid leave to their workers in their first year of business. After one year, however, they must provide paid sick and safe leave if they have six or more employees. This delayed implementation will sunset after five years.
Finally, employers are required to maintain records of accrued and used sick and safe leave, but now this information only has to be provided to employees “upon request by an employee,” rather than every time wages are paid, as the ordinance originally mandated. The information may be provided in writing or electronically, and may be included on a pay stub or through some other means. This change will likely relieve employers concerned about the practicability of changing payroll statements.
The ordinance includes a graduated and somewhat limited enforcement mechanism. All complaints arising under the ordinance are subject to an administrative process before the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights. For the first alleged violation arising before July 1, 2018, other than a claim for retaliation, the department “must only mediate disputes and issue warnings and notices to correct.” For any subsequent violations, the penalties may include the following:
- reinstatement and back pay;
- the crediting to an employee of any accrued but uncredited sick and safe time or payment of wrongfully withheld accrued sick and safe time, plus payment to the employee of double the value of the uncredited or unpaid sick and safe time or $250, whichever is greater;
- up to a $1,500 administrative penalty payable to the employee if the employer discloses confidential information protected by the ordinance, or retaliates against the employee for asserting his or her rights under the ordinance; and
- an administrative fine payable to the city of up to $50 per day for failing to maintain the required records after written notice to the employer of such violation (with a period of at least five business days to comply).
Employers May Keep Existing PTO Policies
The ordinance also specifically provides that employers that provide their employees with sick time under a PTO policy or other paid leave policy that “meets or exceeds, and does not otherwise conflict” with the ordinance are not required to provide additional sick time.
St. Paul is currently considering a nearly identical ordinance, and the City Council plans to conduct hearings on the subject in August. Other cities in Minnesota have not yet taken up the issue.