Minneapolis Wins the Battle over Sick and Safe Time Ordinance

On June 10, 2020, the Minnesota Supreme Court held state law does not preempt the Minneapolis Sick and Safe Time Ordinance (SST Ordinance), and the ordinance can apply to employers located outside Minneapolis.

The SST Ordinance requires employers to provide for protected sick and safe time (SST) for covered employees, requires employers to track the accrual and use of leave time, and, for employers of six or more employees, mandates that SST be paid.  The ordinance covers “any individual employed by an employer . . . who perform[s] work within the geographic boundaries of the City for at least eighty (80) hours in a year.”  The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce brought a lawsuit seeking a court declaration that the SST Ordinance is preempted by state law and that it impermissibly operates outside “the geographic borders of the City.”

Minnesota Supreme Court Weighs In

The Minnesota Supreme Court first held that Minnesota’s kin care law, Minnesota Statutes section 181.9413, which allows employees to use personal sick leave benefits to care for certain family members, does not preempt the SST Ordinance. The court held that the SST Ordinance does not conflict with the state statute, the ordinance's additional terms further the policy underlying the state statute, and the state legislature did not expressly prohibit further activity by local authorities. The court also reasoned that the state statute does not occupy the field of employer-provided sick and safe time such that it precludes local regulation because the legislature had clearly “left room” for employers to provide greater benefits or to allow local authorities to mandate such benefits. The court also noted the law would not have an unreasonable adverse effect on the general population of Minnesota. 

The court then found the SST Ordinance does not violate the extraterritoriality doctrine by applying to employers whose principal place of business is outside of Minneapolis city limits.  In so finding, the court relied on the fact that the SST Ordinance applies only when an employee performs work within the city's geographic boundaries. Citing findings of the Minneapolis City Council, the court found the SST Ordinance furthers the city’s legitimate interest in avoiding adverse effects on the public when employees report to work in Minneapolis when they are ill.  The court dismissed “outlier” hypotheticals identifying the administrative burden in tracking employee hours worked within city limits when the employer lacks a physical presence in Minneapolis. 

Next Steps

Employers with employees working in Minneapolis should review – and revise, if necessary – their policies, procedures, and practices to ensure compliance with the SST Ordinance. Such employees should consider:

  • Reviewing policies and ensuring the company has a compliant Minneapolis Sick and Safe Time Policy and appropriate workplace postings;
  • Training HR and payroll about tracking, record-keeping, and reporting requirements, and managers about the availability of SST; and
  • Providing information about the company's Minneapolis Sick and Safe Time Policy in connection with the Minneapolis and Minnesota Wage Theft Statutes.

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.