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Controversial Twin Cities Sick Leave Laws Start Sunday

If your employees perform work in Minneapolis or St. Paul, regardless of where your business is located, pay attention to these two city ordinances.

New Minneapolis and St. Paul ordinances start July 1 that require employers to provide paid sick leave and a $15/hour minimum wage to employees who work at least 80 hours per year within their borders. The state legislature overwhelmingly passed a bi-partisan bill to preempt and block the local ordinances from taking effect, but Governor Dayton vetoed the legislation. A Hennepin County Court has imposed a temporary injunction blocking Minneapolis from applying its ordinance to companies based outside the city limits, and St. Paul has postponed implementation of its ordinance until the Hennepin County court drama is resolved. An appeal on the ruling is scheduled to be heard on July 11 with a decision expected in the fall. But nothing is stopping the cities from enforcing the ordinances on city-based businesses effective July 1.

Sick and Safe Time Ordinances

Based on the new ordinance, Minneapolis companies with six or more employees must provide 1 hour of sick or safe time off for every 30 hours worked effective July 1. In St. Paul, all companies must provide the paid leave, but for companies with fewer than 24 employees, enforcement is put off until Jan. 1, 2018. General Contractors are not required to provide sick and safe time to independent contractors they use. However, the new rule could lead to scrutiny of those relationships to ensure that the workers should not be classified as employees.

Record-keeping Requirements

The ordinances require businesses to compute and record available and used sick time on an hourly rather than annual basis and to maintain detailed records on each employee for three years and to post the new rules. If employees work in Minneapolis or St. Paul only part of the time, those records must be maintained. In St. Paul, aggrieved employees have the "private right of action," which means they may hire attorneys and charge legal fees and court costs to their employers if they win their claims. A business is considered city-based if it has a physical structure (including a residence) within the city limits, where employees work.

Employees may use "sick and safe" time for their own health and certain family members' illness, injury or health conditions or appointments for diagnosis, care, treatment or preventive care. Victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault and stalking may use sick and safe time to receive medical treatment and other necessary services. Employees also may use sick time to stay home with a family member during emergency closure of school or place of care, including closure due to inclement weather.

Businesses Must Be Prepared

I serve on a joint National Association of the Remodeling Industry/Builders Association of the Twin Cities committee and lobbied the legislature in opposition to the ordinances on Home Affordability Day at the Capitol. I also have advised association members and clients on the sick and safe ordinances.

Minnesota Construction Law Services will continue to work to reverse these ordinances and to prevent them from expanding beyond Minneapolis and St. Paul. We encourage you to tell your state legislators and local government officials how these ordinances would impact your business. In the meantime, please contact meto ensure that your employee handbook, record-keeping and hiring practices are in order or to help you respond to an employee complaint.

Although it is unlikely the cities will strictly enforce the new ordinances until next year, businesses should be prepared. The trend also could spread to other cities.

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