The 2023 Minnesota Legislative Session brought a multitude of changes that affect employee handbooks, policies, and employer practices. While some changes garnered press coverage, many other important changes did not. The following article highlights several legislative changes that affect Minnesota employers as soon as July 1, 2023.
Minnesota Pregnancy and Parental Leave Law
The Minnesota Pregnancy and Parental Leave Law provides eligible employees with up to 12 work weeks of unpaid leave for the birth or adoption of a child. This leave can also be used to cover prenatal care, incapacity due to pregnancy, childbirth, or related health conditions.
Prior to the amendment, the law only applied to employers with 21 or more employees. In addition, employees were only eligible for the leave when the following conditions were met: (1) employed by the same employer for at least 12 months preceding the request; and (2) had worked for an average number of hours per week equal to one-half the full-time equivalent position in the employee’s job classification as defined by the employer’s personnel policies or practices or pursuant to the provisions of a collective bargaining agreement, during the 12-month period immediately preceding the leave.
Effective July 1, 2023, employers with at least one employee are subject to the law. In addition, employees will be eligible for the leave upon hire. The retaliation provision was also updated to prohibit employers from discharging, disciplining, penalizing, interfering with, threatening, restraining, coercing, or discriminating against employees for requesting or obtaining the leave.
Nursing Mothers, Lactating Employees, and Pregnancy Accommodations
The Minnesota legislature once again amended the Nursing Mothers, Lactating Employees, and Pregnancy Accommodations law. The changes go into effect on July 1, 2023.
Under the amendment, employers must provide breaks to express milk for as long as the employee wishes. Employers were previously allowed to limit policies to the first twelve months following the birth.
The law requires employers to make reasonable efforts to provide a room or other location, in close proximity to the work area, other than a bathroom or a toilet stall, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public and that includes access to an electrical outlet, where the employee can express milk in privacy. Under the 2023 amendment, employers must now make a reasonable effort to ensure the room is “clean, private, and secure.”
The law previously stated that “[a]n employer is not required to provide break times under this section if to do so would unduly disrupt the operations of the employer.” This provision was removed. Therefore, the compensable break times to express milk are now a requirement, but the space requirements still fall under a “reasonable effort” standard.
The list of reasonable accommodations for health conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth has been updated to include temporary leave of absence, modification in work schedule or job assignments, and longer break periods.
Employers are now expressly prohibited from discharging, disciplining, penalizing, interfering with, threatening, restraining, coercing, or discriminating against employees for asserting their rights under the law.
Last, the law was updated to include multiple notice provisions. Employers are now required to inform employees of their rights at the time of hire and when an employee makes an inquiry about or requests parental leave. The information must be provided in English and the primary language of the employee. An employer that provides an employee handbook to its employees must include a notice of employee rights and remedies. The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry has recently released the required notice, located here.
Wage Disclosure Protection
The Minnesota Wage Disclosure Protection law, which permits employees to voluntarily discuss their wages, previously included a provision prohibiting employers from retaliating against employees. That provision has been amended to prohibit employers from discharging, disciplining, penalizing, interfering with, threatening, restraining, coercing, or discriminating against an employee for asserting rights or remedies under the law. The existing law requires employers who provide employees with a handbook to include a notice of employee rights and remedies. Therefore, existing handbook policies should be revised to include the new employer prohibitions. This change is effective July 1, 2023.
School Conference and Activity Leave
The Minnesota School Conference and Activity Leave law requires employers to provide an employee unpaid leave of up to a total of 16 hours during any 12-month period to attend school conferences or other school-related activities if the event cannot be scheduled during non-work hours. This law previously only applied to employers with 21 or more employees. Effective July 1, 2023, the law applies to employers with one or more employees.
Minnesota CROWN Act
The Minnesota Human Rights Act was updated to define race as “inclusive of traits associated with race, including but not limited to hair texture and hair styles such as braids, locs, and twists.” Employers should review handbooks, stand-alone policies, and practices that may address dress code or grooming to ensure the policy and/or practice does not discriminate under this updated definition. This change goes into effect on Aug. 1, 2023.
Pay History Ban
On Jan. 1, 2024, the Minnesota Human Rights Act will include a pay history inquiry ban. The new law prohibits employers, employment agencies, and labor organizations from inquiring, considering, or requiring disclosure from any source the pay history of an applicant for employment for the purpose of determining wages, salary, earnings, benefits, or other compensation for that applicant. Pay history is broadly defined as any prior or current wage, salary, earnings, benefits, or any other compensation about an applicant for employment.
The general prohibition against inquiring into the pay history of an applicant does not apply if the job applicant’s pay history is a matter of public record under federal or state law, unless the employer, employment agency, or labor organization sought access to those public records with the intent of obtaining pay history of the applicant for the purpose of determining wages, salary, earnings, benefits, or other compensation for that applicant.
If an applicant voluntarily discloses pay history to a prospective employer, employment agency, or labor organization, the covered hiring entity can consider or act on the voluntarily disclosed salary history information to support a wage or salary higher.
The law is effective Jan. 1, 2024. Employers should review applications and train any applicable employees on proper interview techniques prior to the new year. For employment covered by collective bargaining agreements, this law is not effective until the date of implementation of the applicable collective bargaining agreement after Jan. 1, 2024.
Minnesota Earned Sick and Safe Leave
Effective Jan. 1, 2024, employers must provide employees working in Minnesota with Earned Sick and Safe Leave (ESSL). Minnesota employees will be entitled to one hour of ESSL for every 30 hours of work, up to 48 hours each year, with an 80-hour cap on accrued ESSL. Employers must allow employees to carry over unused accrued hours.
In lieu of carrying over accrued but unused ESSL into the following year, an employer may front-load the entire ESSL balance at the beginning of the subsequent year as follows: (1) 48 hours, if an employer pays an employee for accrued but unused ESSL at the end of a year; or (2) 80 hours, if an employer does not pay an employee for accrued but unused ESSL at the end of a year.
Although the purposes under which employees may use ESSL are similar to the Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth, and Bloomington Ordinances, employees remain entitled to any leave that provides for greater benefits and protections.
As many employers are aware, the leave goes beyond employee “sick days” and covers a host of other purposes for both the employee and the employee’s family members. What may catch employers by surprise is the broad definition of “Family Member” which includes, in part, “any individual related by blood or whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship” as well as “up to one individual annually designated by the employee.”
Employers must give notice to all employees entitled to ESSL, including the amount of ESSL, the accrual year for the employee, and the terms of its use. Employees must also receive a copy of the written policy that states employees’ rights and remedies. Employers who maintain employee handbooks must also include the rights and remedies. Although existing employer leave policies may satisfy the ESSL accrual and usage requirements, policies should still be updated to communicate employees’ rights and remedies. The Minnesota Department of Labor is preparing a uniform employee notice form available for employer use.
Policy Updates and Statutory Compliance
Although this article does not articulate each and every legislative change affecting employers, it does provide a roadmap to signal what policies may require attention. Taft’s Employment and Labor Relations practice group can assist in any policy drafting or necessary revisions. The group can also review hiring documents and other internal practices to ensure statutory compliance. Please feel free to reach out to a Taft Employment and Labor Relations attorney for further guidance.