By: Phoebe A. Taurick, Esq. & James B. Sherman, Esq.
The 2014 legislature passed and Governor Dayton recently signed two new laws with significant implications for Minnesota employers. The more notable of these new laws will increase the minimum wage in Minnesota from $6.15 per hour to $8.00 effective August 1, 2014, exceeding for the first time the federal minimum of $7.25 per hour. The new law also provides for subsequent annual increases that will take the state's minimum wage to $9.50 per hour by August 2016. Thereafter, beginning in 2018, the minimum wage in Minnesota will be tied to inflation and increase automatically without the need for any further legislation. The new minimum wage law affects Minnesota businesses with gross sales of at least $500,000.00.
Perhaps of less obvious concern to Minnesota employers is the "Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act," (SSMSA) which is aimed at significantly strengthening anti-bullying protections in public schools. Among other things, the SSMSA attempts to define prohibited bullying, requires training and resources for students, staff, and school volunteers on bullying prevention and intervention, and lays out specific procedures schools must follow upon reports of bullying. Although the new law is not limited to bullying based on any protected characteristic, it specifically protects students bullied because of their actual or perceived race, ethnicity, color, creed, religion, national origin, immigration status, sex, marital status, familial status, socioeconomic status, physical appearance, sexual orientation, including gender identity and expression, academic status related to student performance, disability, status with regard to public assistance, and age.
The SSMSA currently applies only to public and charter schools and their students. However, because this new law mirrors many of the same categories as already are protected in most workplaces under the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA), employers are well advised to address bullying in the workplace as a legitimate concern. Some forms of "bullying" already run afoul of existing anti-harassment and discrimination laws, and Congress and several states are considering legislation that would prohibit bullying in the workplace. It would be no great stretch for Minnesota's legislature to pass a similar law, perhaps sooner than later, or to consider expanding the MHRA to include protections based on "physical appearance" or other categories now protected by the SSMSA.
For assistance with implementing the new minimum wage - knowing which employees are affected, whether the new law applies to your business, etc. - before it takes effect on August 1, 2014, contact Wessels Sherman's Minnesota office attorneys, at (952) 746-1700.
For a copy of Wessels Sherman's "Taking the Bully by the Horns" - a concise outline of anti-bullying legislation, together with commentary from our experienced lawyers and a sample "anti-bullying policy," email attorney James Sherman, at firstname.lastname@example.org.