On May 30, 2018, the Duluth City Council passed an ordinance requiring private employers to provide paid sick and safe leave to employees, following other Minnesota cities like Minneapolis and St. Paul. The ordinance takes effect on January 1, 2020. Because this is a contentious issue, we expect to see additional amendments before the ordinance takes effect. For the time being, the primary requirements of the ordinance include the following:
- Covered Employers. Businesses with more than five employees, regardless of the location their employees work, are covered by the ordinance.
- Covered Employees. Employees are covered by the ordinance if: (1) more than 50 percent of their working time in a 12-month period is performed within Duluth city limits; or (2) they are based in Duluth and spend a “substantial” part of their time working in Duluth, without spending “more than 50 percent of their work-time in a 12-month period in any other particular place.” Independent contractors, student interns, seasonal employees, and certain railroad employees are not covered.
- Method. Employers may choose one of two alternative methods to provide paid leave: accrual or frontloading.
- Under the accrual method, employees must earn one hour of paid leave for every 50 hours worked, up to 64 hours per year. Employees must be permitted to carry over up to 40 hours of earned and unused time to the following year. Employees begin accruing at commencement of employment, or on the effective date of the ordinance.
- Under the frontloading method, employees must receive 40 hours of paid leave after their first 90 days of employment, and then 40 hours of paid leave at the beginning of each subsequent year.
- Purpose for Use. Employees may use up to 40 hours of paid leave per year for the following reasons:
- An absence resulting from an employee’s own mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition; to accommodate the employee’s need for medical diagnosis, care, or treatment of a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition; or an employee’s need for preventive medical care;
- To allow the employee to provide care for a family member with a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition; care for a family member who needs medical diagnosis, care, or treatment of a mental or physical illness, injury, or health condition; or care for a family member who needs preventive medical care; and
- An absence due to domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking of the employee or employee’s family member.
- Payment. Employers must pay out sick leave at the employee’s same hourly rate as an employee earns from employment, without including lost tips or commissions.
- Verifying Use. Employers may require reasonable documentation to verify an absence if the employee is absent more than three consecutive days.
- Remedies. Employees may bring a private civil action against their employer for violating the ordinance.
Once the Duluth sick leave law takes effect, Minnesota’s three largest cities will require paid sick leave. Employers should prepare in advance, particularly those with employees in Duluth as well as the Twin Cities. The Duluth measure has different requirements for employers, and so employers may choose to adopt different policies tailored to each law. Alternatively, employers may decide to adopt a “one-size-fits-all” policy that takes the most employee-friendly approach to each requirement.