On February 2, 2015, DFL members of the Minnesota legislature will introduce a bill that would require private employers to provide paid “sick and safe leave” to employees. See S.F. No. 481. This legislation was anticipated as a follow-up to last year’s Women’s Economic Security Act (WESA). It is also part of a broader national trend regarding paid leave.
The new bill would replace Minnesota’s current sick leave law, which does not obligate employers to provide paid leave, but requires employer who do provide paid leave to allow employees to use it to care for family members. If passed, the new bill will not only require employers to provide paid leave to employees, it will also result in some changes for the Minnesota Parenting Leave Act (MPLA) and the pregnancy accommodation requirements of WESA.
Here’s what employers need to know about the new sick and safe leave bill:
What Employers Would Be Subject to the Law? The law would apply to any employer in Minnesota with one or more employees. The law would also amend the definition of “employer” in Minn. Stat. § 181.940 to include any employer with one or more employees. The effect of this amendment is that any employers with one or more employees would not only be subject to the new sick and safe leave law, they would also be subject to the MPLA and the pregnancy accommodation requirements of WESA, which currently only apply to employers with “21 or more employees at at least one site.”
Which Employees Would Be Eligible For Sick and Safe Leave? Employees would be eligible for sick safe leave if they have performed at least 680 hours of work for the employer or worked for that employer for at least 17 weeks. This new definition of “employee” will also apply to the MPLA and the pregnancy accommodation requirements for WESA, making it easier for employees to qualify for parenting leave or pregnancy accommodations. Currently, employees are only eligible for parenting leave or pregnancy accommodations if they have worked for the employer for at least 12 months preceding the request and for an average number of hours per week equal to one-half the full-time equivalent position in the employee’s job classification. See Minn. Stat. § 181.940, subd. 2.
How Much Sick and Safe Leave Would Be Required? The new law would require that employees must accrue “a minimum of one hour of earned sick and safe time for every 30 hours worked,” up to a maximum of 72 hours in a calendar year for employers with 21 or more employees. For employers with less than 21 employees, employees could accrue up to a maximum of 40 hours of sick and safe leave in a calendar year. The leave would begin accruing at the commencement of employment, and employees would be eligible to use it after 90 days of employment.
When Could Employees Use Sick and Safe Leave? Employees would be permitted to use sick and safe leave for an employee’s or an employee’s family member’s: (i) mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition; (ii) need for medical diagnosis, care, or treatment of a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition; (iii) need for preventive medical or health care; or (iv) when necessary due to the domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking of the employee or employee’s family member (e.g., medical appointments, legal actions, counseling, relocation, etc…). In addition, employees would be permitted to use sick and safe leave due to “closure of the employee’s place of business due to weather or other emergency, or an employee’s need to care for a child whose school or place of care has been closed due to weather or other public emergency.”
What Notice and Verification Requirements Would Apply? Employers would be able to require employees to give up to seven days’ advance notice for foreseeable leave or to provide notice as soon as practicable for unforeseeable leave. Employers would be permitted to request reasonable documentation to verify sick and safe leave absences only if the absence lasts for more than three consecutive days.
Would Employees Need To Be Paid For Earned Sick and Safe Leave At Termination? No, the bill provides that employers would not be required to pay employees for accrued but unused sick and safe leave upon termination.
What Other Requirements Would Apply? Other requirements of the bill include the following: (i) after using sick and safe leave, employees would be entitled to reinstatement to a comparable position; (ii) employers would be required to maintain information relating to sick and safe leave confidential; (iii) employers would be prohibited from retaliating against employees for using sick and safe leave; and (iv) employers would have to notify employees of their sick and safe leave rights, including in their employee handbooks.
Takeaway: The new sick and safe leave bill represents a potentially dramatic change to paid leave requirements for employers under Minnesota law. It will also substantially broaden the requirements of the MPLA and WESA’s pregnancy accommodation requirements. As a result, employers should continue to monitor this legislation.