On June 10, 2020, the Minnesota Supreme Court upheld a Minneapolis ordinance that governs safe and sick time for employees working in Minneapolis: Minnesota Chamber of Commerce v. City of Minneapolis, No. A18-0771 (Minn. Jun. 10, 2020). Under the Minneapolis ordinance, employees who work in the city for at least 80 hours a year accrue at least one hour of sick and safe time for every 30 hours worked in a calendar year, up to a maximum of 48 hours annually. Employers must allow their employees to carry over unused sick and safe time into the next year, but the total amount of accrued sick and safe time may not exceed 80 hours.
Sick and safe time under the ordinance may be used for mental or physical illness, care of a sick family member, absence due to domestic violence or sexual assault, or other workplace or school closures due to emergencies. The ordinance permits employers to require up to seven days’ notice to use the accrued leave if the need to use leave is foreseeable, but employers must allow an immediate leave when the need is not foreseeable. Employers with six or more employees must provide paid leave; employers with fewer than six employees must provide unpaid leave.
The court’s decision is important because the ordinance applies broadly to non-Minneapolis-based employers. This means that non-Minneapolis-based businesses whose employees go in and out of Minneapolis, or work in Minneapolis even briefly during the year, will likely be required to comply with the ordinance. This may include the need to create detailed record-keeping procedures for employees who work in Minneapolis or visit Minneapolis as part of their employment in order to determine whether those employees may or may not be entitled to paid (or unpaid) leave under the ordinance. Further, the consequences for the employer’s failure to comply with the ordinance may be severe, so detailed records may help prevent unintended violations of the ordinance.
The decision is the culmination of a legal fight between the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and the City of Minneapolis about the enforcement of the ordinance against non-Minneapolis-based employers. The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce had argued that state law preempts the ordinance and that the ordinance should not apply to employers and employees outside of Minneapolis. The court rejected these arguments, reasoning that a business does not need to have an office in Minneapolis in order to be subject to the city’s regulatory powers.
The court’s decision was not unanimous. The dissent noted that the court’s decision may have an incredibly broad reach on non-Minneapolis-based employers who have no physical presence in the city of Minneapolis or even the state of Minnesota. Regardless of where your business is located, if you have employees (sales representatives, couriers, construction workers, etc.) who work within the city limits for 80 or more hours each year, those employees may be entitled to sick and safe time leave.
Because of the potentially broad reach of the ordinance, all employers doing business in some capacity in Minneapolis should be aware of the court’s decision and take steps to comply.