New Minnesota Laws Impose Far-Reaching Changes on Employers
Director of Compliance
When considering of states with the most legislative activity affecting employers, Minnesota usually is not the first state that comes to mind. That is changing, however, as Minnesota recently enacted numerous new legal obligations for employers with employees in the state. Here are some of the key changes:
- Earned Sick and Safe Time Leave (Effective January 1, 2024). Earned Sick and Safe Time (ESST) is paid leave employers will have to provide to eligible employees in Minnesota to be used when the employee is sick; to care for a sick family member; to seek assistance if an employee or their family member experiences domestic violence; when school, work, and care facility closures occur due to weather or public emergencies; and when the employee or family member is at risk of affecting others with a communicable disease. Employers must provide at least one hour of ESST for every 30 hours worked, up to 48 hours per year, and employees may carry over the leave to the next year which may be capped at 80 hours. Alternatively, employers may frontload 80 hours of ESST at the beginning of the year.
- Nursing and Lactating Employee Breaks (Effective July 1, 2023). Minnesota law previously limited employee breaks for expressing breast milk to the first 12 months after the birth of an employee’s child. This 12-month limitation was removed so the employer’s obligation to provide these breaks no longer ends after a year. The new legislation also removed the provision allowing employers to deny lactation breaks if they would unduly disrupt operations. Finally, the space employers must provide to employees to express breast milk should be a clean, private, and secure room with access to an electrical outlet.
- Pregnant Employee Accommodations (Effective July 1, 2023). Employers with one or more employees must provide reasonable accommodations to employees with health conditions related to pregnancy and childbirth, unless the employer can show the accommodation would impose undue hardship on their operations. Pregnancy accommodations were expanded to include more frequent or longer breaks, temporary leaves of absence, modified work schedules or job assignments, and limits to heavy lifting. The employee and employer must engage in an interactive process to determine the reasonableness of an accommodation request and whether it causes undue hardship.
- Paid Family and Medical Leave (Effective January 1, 2026). Covered employees will be granted up to 12 weeks of paid family leave and 12 weeks of paid medical leave, subject to a 20-week combined limit of medical and family leave in a claim year. Qualifying reasons for leave include: (1) addressing an employee’s own serious health condition; (2) caring for a covered family member with a serious health condition; (3) bonding with a new child within 12 months of birth, adoption, or foster care placement; (4) addressing needs relating to the domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking of the employee or a family member; and (5) addressing certain needs arising from a family member’s military deployment. Paid Family and Medical Leave will apply to all private businesses in Minnesota, as well as state and local government employers and charter schools.
- Amendments to Pregnancy and Parental Leave Act (Effective July 1, 2023). The Minnesota Pregnancy and Parental Leave Act previously applied to employers with at least 21 employees but was amended to cover employers with one or more employees. Another amendment entitles employees to leave from the start of their employment rather than requiring them to work for a specified amount of time before becoming eligible.
- Prohibition of Non-Compete Agreements (Effective July 1, 2023). Minnesota law now includes an almost complete prohibition of non-compete clauses in employment agreements. The new law applies to employees and independent contractors, regardless of their income. Two exceptions when non-compete provisions may be enforceable is when they are entered into during the sale of a business or in anticipation of dissolving a business.
These changes to Minnesota law require employers to review and revise their leave policies, ensure a system is in place to track ESST accrual and use, amend employment agreements with non-compete clauses, and safeguard the accommodation rights of nursing and pregnant employees. Remember, employers should consult an attorney or other professional if needed because penalties for non-compliance with these new laws can be substantial.
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