United States: St. Paul Joins Minneapolis With Enactment Of Sick And Safe Leave Ordinance

Last Updated: October 10 2016
Article by Bill Egan

In May, Minneapolis became the first major Midwestern city to impose paid sick and safe leave requirements on employers. Earlier this month, St. Paul followed suit by adopting its own sick and safe leave ordinance. The ordinances each require employers, regardless of location, to provide sick and safe leave for any employee who works more than 80 hours per year within the respective city's limits.

The St. Paul ordinance shares many significant features with the Minneapolis ordinance, however, Minneapolis and St. Paul are not identical twins and neither are their safe and sick leave ordinances. With the enactment of these ordinances, the Twin Cities join five states, the District of Columbia, one county and 27 other cities across the country that require mandatory sick leave for workers who perform even a small percentage of their working time within the jurisdiction's borders.

Both ordinances go into effect on July 1, 2017, and share the following features:

  • Sick and safe leave must be provided to employees who work at least 80 hours per year (an average of about 1.5 hours per week) within city limits.
  • Eligible employees must be offered paid sick and safe time accruing at the rate of at least one hour for every 30 hours worked.
  • Sick and safe time may be capped at 48 hours per year.
  • Employees must be allowed to accrue and bank up to 80 hours total.
  • Sick and safe time begins to accrue on the first day of employment, although employers may implement a waiting period of up to 90 days before the employee may use the leave.
  • Employers may require that sick and safe leave be used in minimum increments of up to four hours, if consistent with any paid non-sick leave policy.
  • Sick and safe leave may be used for the mental or physical health condition of the employee or a family member (broadly defined), absences due various issues relating to domestic abuse, sexual assault or stalking of the employee or a family member and for various public health and weather-related issues.
  • Employers may require documentation for sick and safe leave unless the leave is for fewer than four consecutive days.
  • Employers must post notices, in the form approved by each city, of employee rights under the ordinances on bulletin boards and in employee handbooks.
  • Records of employee hours worked within the border of each city and the accrual and use of sick and safe time for eligible employees must be maintained for three years. Employers that do not maintain such records will be presumed to be in violation of the ordinances.
  • Employers of construction employees will be deemed compliant under both ordinances by paying at least the state prevailing wage or the rate required in an applicable registered apprenticeship agreement, regardless of whether the project is public or private.
  • PTO policies that otherwise comply with the sick and safe time requirements may remain in effect.

The differences are few, but they are not insignificant, particularly given the proximity of the cities and the number of employees that will fall within the protections of both ordinances. The differences include:

  • Exemptions
    • The Minneapolis ordinance exempts employers with fewer than five employees from the paid leave requirements. Those with five or fewer employees, however, must provide 48 hours of unpaid leave per year.
    • The St. Paul Ordinance is effective July 1, 2017, for employers with more than 23 employees and January 1, 2018, for the remainder. 
    • St. Paul provides no exemption to the paid leave requirement for small employers.
      • e.g., a Minneapolis employer with five or fewer employees, but two employees who work at least 80 hours in St. Paul, must provide paid sick and safe leave for those two employees, but is not required to offer paid leave for the other three.
    • Minneapolis has exemptions for certain on-call employees. St. Paul does not.
    • The Minneapolis ordinance allows employers operating under a collective bargaining agreement to negotiate alternate means of meeting the goals of the ordinance. St. Paul's version expresses no such exception.
  • Records
    • Minneapolis requires employers to maintain records for each employee showing accrued and used safe and sick time "for each day of the workweek."
    • St. Paul does not require a day-by-day record.
    • The Minneapolis ordinance requires employers to track hours worked within city borders by employees who "occasionally" (not defined) work within those borders.
    • St. Paul has no such explicit requirement.  
  • Startups
    • In Minneapolis, startup businesses are exempt from paid leave requirements for their first 12 months of operation.
    • In St. Paul, the cutoff is six months. 
    • In both cities, eligible employees are entitled to unpaid leave during these periods.
  • Enforcement
    • St. Paul's ordinance provides a private right of action for retaliation.
    • The Minneapolis ordinance prohibits retaliation, but does not expressly provide for a private cause of action.

Recommendations

The only employers that these ordinances do not affect in any way are those with no employees performing any services within the limits of either Minneapolis or St. Paul. All organizations doing business in Minnesota should determine whether they have any employees who could arguably be covered by either city's sick and safe leave requirements. This would include companies with operations outside Minnesota that have one or more employees, such as sales representatives, who spend some working time in either city's limits.

With the end of the calendar year approaching, any in-state or out-of-state employer with employees who perform any work in either Minneapolis or St. Paul should review their employee handbooks and other personnel, payroll and leave recording policies, practices and procedures to ensure compliance with these ordinances. Covered employers with employee handbooks will be required to include appropriate notices in them. Even employers with PTO policies that comply with the ordinances' accrual and cap requirements must comply with record-keeping, notice and disclosure requirements.

Although neither ordinance takes effect until July 1, 2017, employers should revisit their policies and procedures before the end of the calendar year to avoid any headaches that a mid-year conversion may impose. Employers with only some employees covered by the ordinances will need to determine whether exceptions to current policies must be made and, if so, whether those changes should be made wholesale for the business, for a unit within the business, or just for the eligible employees.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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