Politics and Government

Paid sick and safe time sent to Walz for signature

A room full of people debate a bill
The Minnesota Senate debates a bill on April 28. A paid sick and safe time benefit for Minnesota workers is included in a larger jobs bill passed by the Senate and the House Tuesday.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

Updated: May 17, 6:09 a.m. | Published: May 16, 5:47 p.m.

Minnesota workers would be able to earn paid sick and safe time and be covered by a host of new employee protections under a labor and jobs budget bill that the state Senate and House passed on Tuesday.

The larger $998 million budget bill includes language that allows workers to accrue paid time off if they fall ill, face a threat to their safety or need to recover from sickness or injury. That’s separate from a paid family and medical leave program moving as another bill.

That plan and other provisions in the bill that boost workplace safety standards, require more employee input about staffing ratios and prevent employers from requiring workers to attend meetings that discourage them from joining labor unions represent a historic step forward for workers, supporters said.

“This bill is a big damn deal,” Sen. Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, said. “We are making powerful advances for people who work for a living all across the state of Minnesota in a variety of industries, providing worker safety, but as important, worker power and worker voice.”

Under the sick and safe time provision, an employee could earn up to one hour of time off for every 30 hours they work with a cap of 48 hours each year. So after six weeks, a worker could earn one 8-hour day off. Bloomington, Duluth, Minneapolis and St. Paul have similar local ordinances in place already.

As many as 900,000 Minnesota workers could benefit from the change.

The measure’s supporters, including labor groups, health care providers and faith leaders said that coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was critical to have paid time off policies.

“The ability to take care of yourself when you're sick, or to take care of a sick kid or to go to the doctor without forgoing a paycheck should be a basic fundamental expectation for all Minnesotans. But too many workers in this state don't have access to any paid time off,” Rep. Liz Olson, DFL-Duluth, said. “But after this bill is signed into law that all changes.” 

Opponents, including business groups and Republican lawmakers, said employers have the option to offer sick and safe time now and most already work to accommodate providing time off as well as they can. And paired with that separate proposal to create a statewide paid family and medical leave program funded with a payroll tax, the new requirements would be even more painful, business groups said.

“I think what we've seen is that there are a number of provisions here that are misguided, that upset the balance in the relationship between the employer and the employee,” Sen. Eric Pratt, R-Prior Lake, said. 

Anyone who has worked for an employer for at least 80 hours in a given year would be eligible for the sick and safe time benefit, though independent contractors and some employees subject to other federal standards would be excluded. Employees could roll over unused time and could bank up to 80 hours, unless employers let them save more than that.

Workers would have to give reasonable notice to take time off. Acceptable uses spelled out in the bill include caring for a workers’ mental or physical health, caring for a family member or taking them to a medical appointment, absence related to domestic abuse, sexual assault or stalking of themselves or a family member, and closure of work, school or child care due to severe weather or an emergency. 

People could also take time off if they’re unable to work remotely after contracting or being exposed to a communicable disease or if they are at risk of infecting others. 

If signed into law, the policy would take effect in 2024. Businesses that repeatedly or willfully violate the provision could be subject to a $10,000 fine.

The Senate passed the bill 34-33 Tuesday afternoon, and the House passed it 70-61 late Tuesday night. The bill now goes to Gov. Tim Walz who is expected to sign it.

The proposal has additional provisions that could affect many workplaces around the state. It would also fund economic development grants and tourism events. 

Other things the bill does:

  • Creates new safety standards for warehouses and meatpacking facilities.

  • Adds class sizes to the issues teachers’ unions could include in local bargaining agreements.

  • Sets up the first-in-the-country nursing home standards board that would have authority over pay and benefits for workers in those facilities.

  • Voids non-compete agreements in Minnesota workers’ contracts in most situations.

  • Establishes Launch Minnesota under the Department of Employment and Economic Development with the mission of bringing entrepreneurs and tech companies to Minnesota.

  • Funds a variety of workforce and economic development grants, including $124 million for businesses in underserved communities.

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