The Minnesota legislative session closed on Monday, May 20th with several bills important to Minnesota employers signed into law while others were left behind. Two of the most-watched bills this season, H.F. No. 92 and S.F. No. 3, bills seeking to increase the state minimum wage from $6.15 an hour, did not reach legislative approval in spite of majority leaders’ indications that a wage hike would be a priority this session. The minimum wage bills failed due to a disagreement between the House and Senate on the amount of the minimum wage increase. The House, with Governor Dayton’s support, sought an increase to $9.50 per hour while the Senate sought a $7.75 hourly wage increase, fifty cents more than the current federal minimum wage. Democratic lawmakers have expressed a continued commitment to increase the minimum wage by the close of the next legislative session.
Another bill signed into law this legislative session makes several important revisions to the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Act (the “Act”). Among the most significant revisions, the Act opens the door to claims for post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”) by adding a diagnosis of PTSD to the definition of an “occupational disease” under the Act, previously defined only as a “disease arising out of and in the course of employment peculiar to the occupation in which the employee is engaged and due to causes in excess of the hazards of ordinary employment”. Expressly excluded from compensation under the terms of the revised Act are claims of PTSD resulting from a “disciplinary action, work evaluation, job transfer, layoff, demotion, promotion, termination, retirement, or similar action taken in good faith by the employer.” This revision marks the first time Minnesota workers’ compensation law will cover mental injuries.
Other significant revisions to the Act include an increase in the maximum average weekly benefits from $850 (established in 2008) to a floating amount of 102% of the statewide average weekly wage from the preceding year. The statewide average weekly wage through September 30, 2013 is $916, an approximate 10% increase in maximum weekly benefits. The revisions to the Act also increase the maximum annual cost of living adjustment from 2 to 3 percent.
Last, a bill seeking to expand Minnesota law related to employee leaves of absence for the care for sick family members awaits final approval from Governor Dayton. Minnesota law currently permits an employee to use personal sick leave benefits provided by an employer to care for the employee’s child. The current bill, passed by the House and Senate last week, would permit an employee to use sick leave benefits to care not only for a child, but also for a spouse, sibling, parent, grandparent or stepparent. The bill has not yet been signed by Governor Dayton. If Governor Dayton chooses not to sign the bill within fourteen days of the end of the legislative session, May 20, 2013, then the bill will be pocket vetoed.