Minneapolis ordinance gives sick, safe-time leave to employees

On May 27, the Minneapolis City Council approved an ordinance under which employers with six or more employees must provide up to 48 hours (six days) of paid sick and safe time each year, or up to 80 hours when accrued leave is carried into the following year. Employers with five or less employees must provide the same amount of unpaid leave. Phased enforcement of the sick and safe-time requirements will begin July 1, 2017.

According to the city council, four out of 10 Minneapolis workers currently lack access to paid sick time. To expand access to paid sick and safe time, the ordinance amends the Minneapolis Code of Ordinances to add a new Chapter 40.

Leave accrual. Specifically, F.N.15-01372 provides that with some exceptions, employees who work at least 80 hours a year performing work within the boundaries of the city for their employer, are entitled to accrue up to 48 hours of sick and safe time each year, beginning July 1, 2017, or on the date employment commences, whichever is later. The sick and safe time will accrue at the rate of at least one hour for every 30 hours worked. Sick and safe time may be carried over to the following year, but only up to a maximum of 80 hours a year.

Employees may begin to use accrued sick and safe time 90 days after commencement of employment, and thereafter as the leave time accrues.

Use of leave. Under the ordinance, employees may use sick and safe time:

• For their own health needs and certain family members’ health needs.
• If they are victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking, to receive medical treatment and other necessary services.
• To stay home with a child if school is cancelled because of a health emergency or weather conditions.
• Where the employee’s place of business is closed by order of a public official, to limit exposure to an infectious agent, biological toxin or hazardous material or other public health emergency.

The ordinance is a critical step in preserving and protecting safety, health and general welfare, the city said in a press release. The city council found that paid leave is a key contributor to healthy individuals, families and communities, which are the foundation of well-functioning societies. Paid leave creates the opportunity for family members to both earn a living and to provide care for their loved ones.

Motivation for legislative action. The city council said that the paid sick and safe time is intended to:

• Ensure that workers can address their own health needs and the health needs of their families.
• Reduce public and private health care costs by enabling workers to seek early and routine medical care for themselves and their family members.
• Protect workers from losing their jobs while they use sick days.
• Safeguard the public welfare, health, safety, and prosperity of Minneapolis’ residents, workers and visitors.

Construction industry. Construction industry employers (whether working on public or private projects) may meet the requirements of the ordinance by opting to pay at least the prevailing wage rate as defined by Minnesota Statutes, Section 177.42, and as calculated by the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry, or by paying at least the required rate established in a registered apprenticeship agreement for apprentices registered with the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry.

Effective dates. The new chapter is effective July 1, 2017. Employers other than chain establishments operating in their first 12 months after the hire date of the employer’s first employee are required to provide unpaid sick time but not paid sick time. After 12 months, the employer is subject to the paid sick time requirements (provided they have six or more employees). This provision will sunset after five years (July 1, 2022), at which point the employer will be subject to full enforcement.

Violations. For first violations arising during the first 12 months after July 1, 2017 (other than for Sec. 40.240, related to retaliation), the Department of Civil Rights will only mediate disputes and issue warnings and notices to correct. Subsequent violations that arise during the first 12 months after July 1, 2017, and later, may result in relief and/or penalties that include reinstatement and back pay; credit or payment of the dollar value of the accrued leave unlawfully withheld plus the dollar amount times two or $250, whichever is greater; and administrative fines for violations of certain provisions. If compliance is not obtained, the city attorney may take civil action against alleged violators. (Minneapolis Code of Ordinances, Chapter 40, May 27, 2016.)

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