June 15, 2019

Minnesota Court of Appeals: Minneapolis Sick and Safe Time Ordinance Can be Applied to Employers Located Outside of Minneapolis

The Minneapolis Sick and Safe Time Ordinance (“SST Ordinance”) applies to employees who work within the geographic boundaries of the city of Minneapolis for at least 80 hours per year (as defined by the SST Ordinance).  As written, all private sector employers must comply with the SST Ordinance, even if they do not have a physical location within the city.

After passage of the SST Ordinance, a lawsuit was brought challenging the legality of the SST Ordinance.  On May 8, 2018, the Hennepin County District Court (Judge Mel Dickstein) issued an order preventing Minneapolis from enforcing its SST Ordinance against employers outside the City of Minneapolis.  As a result, Minneapolis held off on enforcing its ordinance against any employer that did not have a physical location in the city.

Minneapolis appealed the District Court’s Order and, on April 29, 2019, the Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed the District Court’s ruling and held that the SST Ordinance can be applied to employers located outside of the cityMinn. Chamber of Commerce v. City of Minneapolis, A18-0771 (Minn. Ct. App. April 29, 2019).  The primary reason for the Court’s decision was that because the ordinance only requires leave to accrue for an employee while working in Minneapolis, and only requires that accrued leave be allowed to be used by an employee when the employee is scheduled to work in Minneapolis, the ordinance operates solely within the city of Minneapolis.  In reaching its decision, the Court of Appeals relied heavily on a case from 1896 involving the inspection of cow milk that was sold within the city, even if the cows were located outside of the city.

On May 7, 2019, in response to the Court of Appeals’ decision, Minneapolis published proposed changes to its previously issued sick and safe time rules and frequently asked questions.  Public comments on the proposed changes were accepted through June 7, 2019.  The proposed changes can be found here:

On May 29, 2019, the City of Minneapolis also issued a public notice in response to the Court of Appeals’ decision.  In its notice, the City reiterated that all covered employees, including employees of “non-resident” employers, are entitled to accrue sick and safe time based upon their hours worked in the City of Minneapolis since July 1, 2017, which was the effective date of the ordinance.  With regard to non-resident employers specifically, the City stated that the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights “may exercise some enforcement discretion during summer 2019 as ‘non-resident employers’ act in good faith to promptly comply” with the SST Ordinance.

In its notice, the City also reminded employers that they can comply with the SST Ordinance “either by (1) crediting covered employees with sick and safe time at a rate of 1 hour per 30 hours worked in the City, capped at 48 per year and 80 overall, or (2) front-loading a lump sum of 48 hours for the first year of the employee’s employment and 80 hours at the beginning of every year thereafter (also capped at 80 hours overall). Employers may therefore comply with the ordinance without individual historical calculations at this time by crediting each covered employee with 80 hours of accrued sick and safe time. Employers are permitted to choose different methods of compliance (accrual or frontloading) for different employees.”

Employer Action: Just because you do not have a physical location within the city of Minneapolis, that does not mean you do not need to comply with the SST Ordinance.  To the contrary, you do!  If you have not been tracking sick and safe time since July 1, 2017, you should start to do so immediately, retroactive to that date.