St. Paul City Council to Review Proposed Paid Sick and Safe Leave Ordinance

News Tip - TemplateOn August 3, 2016, the St. Paul City Council will hold an initial hearing on a new paid sick and safe leave ordinance. The ordinance was proposed by a special task force appointed by St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and the Council and vetted through the St. Paul Human Rights and Equal Economic Opportunity Commission.

Lisa Schmid, labor and employment attorney at Nilan Johnson Lewis, has reviewed the draft ordinance, which in several ways resembles the recently adopted paid sick leave in Minneapolis, including:

  • Employees begin accruing earned sick leave after working 80 hours on the job in St. Paul, and then earn one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked.
  • The maximum number of sick-leave hours an employee can earn in a calendar or fiscal year is 48 hours, but employees can carry over 80 unused hours from year-to-year.
  • Accrued hours can be used for multiple purposes, including for absences due to an employee’s own mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition or to take care of a family member suffering from mental or physical illness or who needs a medical diagnosis or preventative care. Employees can also use accrued hours to deal with exigencies arising out of domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking.
  • Employers would not be required to pay out unused sick and safe time when an employee leaves the company, but there are specific rules for handling employee transfers and retention of hours for a specific period after an employee separates.
  • Employers who already offer enough paid time off to satisfy the ordinance need not provide additional time, but they still must comply with the ordinance’s other requirements, such as notice and record-keeping obligations.

Significantly, and unlike the Minneapolis ordinance, St. Paul’s draft ordinance does not exempt any employer, regardless of size, from providing paid sick and safe leave to eligible employees.

After much debate, Minneapolis decided to allow employers with less than six employees to provide unpaid, versus paid, leave to satisfy the requirements of the ordinance. Given the focus of the task force that prepared the draft ordinance, St. Paul may not reach the same conclusion, rendering its ordinance broader in scope.

“As a result of the difference, small employers whose employees work in both cities may find themselves facing a difficult management situation as they attempt to comply with both ordinances and determine which employees will receive paid versus unpaid leave,” said Schmid.

The City Council will continue to hold hearings on the draft ordinance throughout August, but it is fully expected that the City will adopt some version of a paid sick and safe leave program. All employers in St. Paul and all employers with employees who work St. Paul should monitor developments closely.

Lisa Schmid is an employment attorney who routinely advises employers on various labor and employment matters, including leave-related issues. To speak with her about the St. Paul ordinance, email her at lschmid@nilanjohnson.com or call her at 612.305.7549. For media inquiries, contact Aaron Berstler at 651.789.1264 or aaron@kohnstamm.com.

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