By: James B. Sherman, Esq.
Among the various types of leave permitted by the Minnesota Parental Leave Act (MPLA), employees may use personal sick leave benefits provided by their employer for absences to "attend to" their child due to an illness or injury. The law allows such leave to be taken on the same terms the employee would be able to use sick leave benefits for his or her own illness or injury. However, in May the Minnesota legislature amended the MPLA to allow employees to also use their sick leave benefits for illness or injury of any of these additional family members: (1) adult child; (2) spouse; (3) sibling; (4) parent; (5) grandparent; and (6) stepparent. The amendment takes effect August 1, 2013 and because it allows for leave to care for several new categories of relatives beyond those covered under the federal FMLA, Minnesota employers must prepare now for this significant change. Among other things employers should review/revise their leave of absence and sick leave policies and practices without delay.
The new amendments allow employees to attend to this expanded group of family members in the same fashion they were able to use MPLA for their minor child, with one exception. Employers may cap the amount of sick leave that may be taken for these additional relatives, so long as the cap is no less than 160 hours in a 12-month period. Leave to care for a sick or injured minor child may not be limited in this fashion; i.e. employees may use any amount of sick leave accrued and available to them when it comes to their minor child. The new amendments go on to clarify that "child" includes a stepchild, a biological child, as well as an adopted or foster child.
The MPLA applies to employers with 21 or more employees at a single site and all Minnesota employees of such employers are eligible for this type of leave if they have worked for the employer for at least 12 consecutive months immediately preceding the request, for an average of at least half the full time equivalent position. "Personal sick leave benefits" does not include short-term or long-term disability benefits. The law requires employers to reinstate employees to their same job upon return from a covered leave.
Covered employers - Minnesota based companies as well as those outside Minnesota but with employees working in this state - have until August 1 st to begin granting leaves to eligible employees to allow them to care for family members never before covered by state or federal law. Whereas the FMLA requires employers to grant unpaid leave to care for a parent, spouse, or child with a serious health condition, the newly amended MPLA allows for leave to attend also to any adult child, sibling, or grandparent.
Given all the monumental changes to Minnesota employment laws made during this past legislative session (e.g. new laws on criminal background checks, same-sex marriage, and now parental leave) 2013 is a great time for employers to revise and update their employee handbooks. For experienced guidance on Minnesota specific policies and practices, contact James B. Sherman for a free assessment and quote to update your employee handbook.