Many developments have happened legislatively and legally since Minneapolis and St. Paul approved ordinances mandating paid time off for employees in 2016. A lawsuit was filed, an injunction issued, appeal pending, and a preemption bill is now progressing through the legislative process. Although any one of these events could change the course of the ordinance, companies should still be thinking about how to comply with the laws should they become effective on July 1, 2017.
Below are five things to consider as your business starts to prepare for the new laws should they become effective:
Hold Off on Announcing Program Changes. There are a lot of political and legal factors that are still undecided. Thus, the best practice is not to announce to employees any program changes resulting from the ordinances until after they become effective. Although not impossible, it is always much harder to put the genie back in the bottle once the information is out.
Employee Number Matters. In Minneapolis, if you employ fewer than 6 people, then you do not have to pay employees for sick and safe time. You are only obligated to allow employees the time off… but that time off can be unpaid. Minneapolis, Minnesota, Municipal Code art. III § 40.220(h) (2016).
There is Still Time. Although the effective date is July 1, 2017, enforcement of the ordinance varies in each city. Flexible effective dates may give you extra time to develop a comprehensive plan before rolling the policies out to your employees.
- Employers with 23 or fewer employees have an effective date of January 1, 2018.
- A new business (regardless of employee number) has a six-month grace period after the hire date of its first employee, where it is not required to provide paid sick leave. After six months, the employer will be subject to enforcement. Saint Paul Legislative Code Title XXIII, Chapter 233.21B.
- A new business (with 5+ employees) has a twelve-month grace period after the hire date of its first employee, where it is not required to provide paid sick leave. After twelve months, the employer will be subject to enforcement.
Employee Access to Accrual Balance. Upon request, employers must provide employees of their current balance of sick and safe time. Develop a system that documents this information and provides notification that is convenient for your business. Things to consider when creating this system:
- What is the easiest way to fulfill multiple requests?
- Is there a way for employees to access this information on their own?
- How can I tie documenting these numbers into my budget analysis?
- Does my system show compliance if I am audited?
- Does my business prefer to provide notification in writing or electronically?
Remember to Customize Your Program. Small business owners can still tailor the ESST policy so that it holds employees accountable for the sick and safe time used. Consider the following:
- Require reasonable advance notice from employees who plan to use sick and safe time (cannot be more than 7 days).
- Require a written explanation following a pattern of absences (i.e. more than three consecutive days).
Failure to comply with city laws can result in unnecessary audits, fines, and lawsuits that could have been preventable. If you are concerned about how the Minneapolis or St. Paul ordinances mandating earned sick and safe time benefits will affect your business and need help with drafting policies, contact us today to see how we can help mitigate potential risks for your business.
About the Author
Alexia Shim is a graduating student at Mitchell Hamline School of Law and legal extern at Loop Legal PLLC. Her studies are focused on business law and corporate compliance. Alexia has a passion for entrepreneurship and provides her professional knowledge having managed a number of start-up businesses prior to attending law school.