Union: AT&T violating new Minnesota sick leave law

The union representing Twin Cities employees of AT&T is accusing the company of violating a recently-enacted state law broadening workers' rights to use paid sick time.

This past August, a new state law granted workers the right to use sick days to care for many relatives, including spouses, parents, and grandparents.

The benefit had been restricted to caring for oneself or a child. But the union representing the AT&T employees says the company won't pay workers with 25 or more years of service when they take sick days to care for family members.

"They were basically told they weren't eligible. And more and more employees will be hitting that 25-year-plus mark," said Communications Workers of America spokeswoman Greta Bergstrom.

AT&T, which employs some 550 Twin Cities workers, says the employees in question have unlimited sick days under their union contract so they need to use other paid and unpaid options available to care for relatives.

Those options include short term and long term disability benefits, five weeks of paid vacation, three paid floating holidays, four excused work days with pay, as well as family leave, a company spokesman said.

The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry has warned AT&T that it must comply with the sick leave law but has not ruled the company has violated the statute. The company says it's in talks with the union to resolve the dispute. Until August paid sick time had been restricted to caring for oneself or a child.

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