Minneapolis Mandates Paid Sick Leave for Workers

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By Mark Wolski

May 27 — The Minneapolis City Council May 27 unanimously approved an ordinance that will require employers in the city to provide paid sick leave to most workers.

The ordinance, which takes effect July 1, 2017, will require employers with six or more employees to provide their workers one hour of paid sick leave for each 30 hours worked, to a maximum of 48 hours per year. The employees must work at least 80 hours a year to be eligible. Companies with five or fewer employees will also be required to provide up to 48 hours of sick leave to their employees, but the leave can be unpaid.

Speaking before the council's vote, member Lisa Bender said the ordinance is a throwback to labor laws enacted decades ago to protect workers. She said the city is standing up for its workers, ensuring that they won't be fired for taking care of themselves or sick family members.

Other Cities May Follow

The federal government hasn't been offering workers job protections, so the job has fallen to local jurisdictions, Bender said. Other council members expressed the hope that other major cities in Minnesota, such as St. Paul and Duluth, will soon follow suit.

The Minneapolis Sick and Safe Time Ordinance will allow workers to use the leave to care for themselves or their family members. An amendment to the ordinance will also allow workers to use their sick leave to care for their children on days when school is cancelled.

Penalties for Noncompliance

New businesses, other than business chains, can offer unpaid leave to their workers in their first year of business. After one year, however, they must provide paid leave if they have six or more employees. This delayed implementation of paid leave will sunset after five years.

Employers violating the ordinance can be subject to a $1,500 penalty, payable to the employee, and a fine of $50 per day of noncompliance payable to the city.

About 41 percent of Minneapolis residents lack access to earned sick leave, an explanation of the ordinance said. A good many of those without sick leave are in occupations that have contact with people, like food service workers, long-term care providers and health-care workers, it said.

The ordinance said it will reduce public and private health-care costs by allowing sick workers to care for themselves or seek medical care rather than work while they are sick. It will also protect workers from losing their jobs when caring for themselves or their families.

Chamber Wanted Incentives

John Stanoch, president of the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce, told Bloomberg BNA May 27 that the chamber worked with the council on the ordinance, but the final version isn't what its members wanted. The chamber would have preferred business incentives to implement sick leave policies, rather than the one-size-fits-all mandate, he said.

Stanoch said he is hopeful, though, that chamber members can work with the city in the coming months to get some kind of safe harbor for businesses that provide sick leave benefits that are equal to or greater than the ordinance's mandates.

The chamber also wants to work with the city in the rulemaking process for the ordinance. Stanoch said he is not sure the council took into account how the ordinance could affect small businesses. No one likes to see businesses close or see employees laid off, he said, and those are possibilities with the ordinance.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mark Wolski in St. Paul, Minn., at mwolski@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Susan J. McGolrick at smcgolrick@bna.com

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