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Date: April 4, 2024

Minnesota Legislature Seeks to Change Newly Effective Earned Safe and Sick Time Law

by Foley Mansfield
Date: April 4, 2024
by Foley Mansfield

Minnesota Legislature Seeks to Change Newly Effective Earned Safe and Sick Time Law

By now, employers should be familiar with and implementing (if applicable) Minnesota’s Earned Safe and Sick Time law (“ESST”) that took effect on January 1, 2024. ESST is paid leave that an employee may use when they or a family member are sick, need to see a doctor or medical professional, need help due to domestic abuse, or various other related reasons.

Requiring employers to provide their employees a minimum of one hour of ESST/paid leave for every thirty hours worked, this is the state’s first law requiring employers to provide employees with paid leave. Employers that already provide paid time off or sick leave that meets or exceeds the minimum requirements of the ESST law are not required to provide ESST in addition to the time off provided that employees can use that time off for the same purposes as ESST.

Various Minnesota cities, including Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Bloomington,[1] have existing ordinances providing ESST. The new ESST law specifically does not supersede the existing ordinances, so employers in those areas should continue to comply with any applicable ordinance.

For the uninitiated, ESST applies to employees who work at least 80 hours in a year. Employees can accumulate at least 48 hours of ESST each year, and hours are carried over to the next year (although employers can cap employees’ ESST banks at 80 hours). Instead of accruing ESST, employers can opt to frontload employees’ ESST by giving them 48 hours available for immediate use at the start of the year with any unused ESST to be paid out at the end of the year, or 80 hours with no payout. Regardless of the amount, no frontloaded ESST carries over into the next year.

Despite that the law just went into effect, Minnesota legislators on both sides of the aisle are already working to amend it.

Democratic-Farmer-Labor Proposal

On February 15, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party introduced HF 3882, seeking to provide more ESST rights for employees. This amendment will make employers liable to employees if they do not comply with ESST accrual or use requirements for the employee’s regular rate of pay plus an additional equal amount as damages. It would also amend the requirement to list an employee’s accrued and used ESST hours on their paystub, now giving employers the option to provide this information in other ways, such as in writing or in an electronic system. One significant change is the definition of “employee,” or, who is eligible for ESST. Instead of identifying an employee as someone who works 80 hours a year for an employer, it would be someone “anticipated” to work 80 hours a year. It would also make flight deck or cabin crew members employed by air carriers eligible for ESST. Another major change would allow ESST to be used to make arrangements for or attend a funeral, memorial, or address financial/legal matters following the death of a family member.

This bill and its Senate companion (SF 3787) have already been discussed by at least one committee in each chamber. With the DFL maintaining its majority status in both the House and Senate, there is speculation that this proposed amendment could pass.

Republican Proposals

On February 29, a group of thirteen Republican representatives introduced HF 4462 to amend the law in employers’ favor, with special attention to small businesses. Specifically, this bill seeks to limit ESST pay to half of an employee’s hourly rate for employers with 25 or fewer employees and would waive compliance for new business owners during their first 12 consecutive months of operation. The largest changes lie in its attempt to curb the eligibility of ESST by redefining “employee” and “family member.” As written, this bill proposes to disqualify ESST accrual for minors, anyone averaging 25 hours of work or less per week, seasonal employees, per diem employees, or an owner’s direct relative. Additionally, employees would not be able to take off time to care for their sibling’s or spouse’s children, a child- or sibling-in-law, or an unrelated individual annually designated by the employee. A companion bill with identical amendments was introduced in the Senate (SF 5135) on March 20.

On March 4, Republican representatives introduced HF 4544, also seeking to modify the definition of “employee.” However, this bill seeks to disqualify ESST accrual for elected officials/public officers, on-call or volunteer ambulance service personnel, and on-call or volunteer firefighters. Its companion Senate bill (SF 4605) was introduced on March 7.

The proposed bills could significantly impact employers and employees. We’re keeping an eye on the bills and will provide an update following the legislative session.

Minnesota’s Other New Paid Leave Law

Relatedly, employers should prepare to comply with another Minnesota paid leave law, fittingly referred to as “Paid Leave.” Launching in 2026, this program will provide employees with up to 12 weeks of paid time off for family or medical leave reasons, including caring for a family member, bonding with a new baby, or when an employee’s own health condition prevents them from working. Though fundamentally similar to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), Minnesota’s Paid Leave program applies to all Minnesota employers regardless of size, unlike FMLA which only applies to employers with 50 or more employees. As the name implies, the other major difference is this leave is paid (FMLA simply protects the employee’s job). Employee payment is like Minnesota’s unemployment system—employers pay a premium to the state (in this program, 0.7% of an employee’s taxable wages) and the state pays employees during their leave. Starting this summer, most Minnesota employers will be required to submit a wage detail report that lists employees’ quarterly wages received and hours worked for purposes of complying with this new program.

Navigating leave issues, including ESST, can be challenging and potentially lead to difficult legal scenarios for employers. If you’re an employer with questions on ESST or other employment concerns, please feel free to consult our firm to determine the best approach for your business.

 

Contacts:

Michael S. Kernstock

Tessa Mansfield Hirte

 

Related Practices:

Employment Law Litigation

Business & Corporate

 

[1] Duluth’s ordinance was repealed on January 18, 2024.

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