New Sick and Safe Time Guarantee Starts in Minnesota on January 1, 2024
Missing work because of a sick kid, an injury, or an unexpected snow day is part of life. For many workers, those unplanned absences can throw their financial or job security into doubt. Fortunately, starting on January 1, 2024, almost every employee in the State of Minnesota will get some relief in those types of situations through a new state law requiring employers to let workers earn paid sick and safe leave. This new program requires all employers to provide employees with one hour of paid sick and safe leave for every 30 hours they work.
The new program applies to all employers regardless of size, and all employees who work at least 80 hours in a year. The requirement does not apply to independent contractors or employees of the federal government. The law also exempts certain workers in the aviation industry, and construction workers covered by a collective bargaining agreement.
For everybody else in Minnesota, the leave they earn can be used for time off due to illness or injury, to care for family members who are injured or ill, or to seek assistance in domestic violence situations. That includes both mental and physical injuries or illnesses. The definition of family member is very broad, allowing employees to take time off to care for most blood or legal relations, as well as any person whose association is equivalent to a family relationship. Employees can also take time off when they cannot be at work due to weather-related closures of workplaces or schools.
Employers must disclose workers’ leave balances each pay period. Employees must earn at least one hour per 30 hours worked, though employers can set an annual cap as long as it is no lower than 48 hours per year. Employees can carry over unused leave balances from year-to-year, though employers are allowed to cap the cumulative balance at 80 hours. Full-time workers who do not track their hours are assumed to work 40 hours per week for purposes of earning leave. Employers have some options for altering their obligations, including providing their own PTO benefits that are more generous than what the law requires, and front-loading workers’ sick and safe leave so it is made available to employees all at once at the beginning of the year. Notably, several cities in Minnesota already require employers to provide paid sick and safe leave, so in those cities, employees are eligible for whatever is the more generous program.
When an employee needs to use their earned sick and safe leave, they are entitled to be absent from work and get paid at their normal rate of pay. An employer can require advanced notice if the need for leave is foreseeable, but in the more common circumstance when an employee has to take unplanned leave, an employer must still honor the employee’s right to take leave. If an employer does not honor that right—either by failing to pay the employee for their leave or by retaliating against the employee by subjecting them to discipline or failing to restore them to their position when they are able to return to work—the employee can sue for damages.
Legal claims under the new law are likely to bear some similarity, and possibly overlap with other claims under laws like the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA). In a few years, Minnesota will also launch its new paid family and medical leave program, which will address situations where employees need longer-term leaves of absence. Each of those laws creates obligations for employers to provide leave under certain circumstances, and provides legal remedies for employees whose rights are violated. The new sick and safe leave law will supplement those laws by ensuring that employees have a right to paid leave when they face a short-term absence due to illness, injury, domestic violence, or to care for family members experiencing those things.
If you live in Minnesota and your employer is denying you sick and safe leave, or any other type of leave to which you are entitled, the attorneys at the Minneapolis Office of MacDonald Hoague & Bayless are available to discuss your situation and help you determine your legal options. We represent employees subjected to wrongful denials of leave or retaliation for taking leave. If you would like to talk to an attorney about a situation like that, please call 612.349.2720.