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Minnesota Legislative Update (March 2014)

March 2014

By: James B. Sherman, Esq. & Phoebe A. Taurick, Esq.

Every year, the Minnesota legislature considers several bills that would profoundly impact employers. In 2013, with DFL majorities in both the House and Senate and a DFL governor, employers saw several significant new laws enacted; e.g. so-called "Ban the Box" legislation and same-sex marriage. Employers should pay close attention to this year's legislative session which promises to be just as dynamic as last year. The following are just some of the proposals currently being considered by the Minnesota legislature in 2014:

  • Requiring certain state contractors to show pay equity compliance through a certificate from the commissioner of human rights;
  • Adding an exception to the general rule that employees who quit are not eligible for unemployment compensation for a reason due to sexual abuse or stalking of the employee or immediate family member;
  • Decreasing the size of a "large employer" from $625,000 annual gross volume of sales made or business done to $500,000, for purposes of application of certain obligations under the Minnesota Fair Labor Standards Act;
  • Increasing the minimum wage from $6.50 to $9.50/hour, over three years and providing for further increases based on the cost of living index ostensibly to keep in track with inflation;
  • Broadening parental leave rights to cover leave and accommodations due to pregnancy, and increasing the amount of leave from 6 weeks to 12 weeks;
  • Requiring employers to provide accrued "sick and safe time" to covered employees which, in addition to regular sick leave, covers leave for treatment of the employee or covered family member related to sexual abuse, stalking, or domestic violence, or absences due to closure of the employee's place of business or the employee's child's school or place of care due to a public emergency;
  • Adding family status and status as a family caregiver as protected statuses with regard to employment discrimination; and
  • Making it unlawful to discriminate or retaliate against an employee for asking about or discussing the employee's wages or the wages of any other employee.

The 2014 legislative session ends in May 2014, absent any unforeseen special sessions. Many of the above bills are presently proceeding through various committees in the house and senate. Given the current political environment, employers can expect to see many of the above proposals enacted into law this year. We at Wessels Sherman will keep our readers advised on significant new changes to the law of the workplace in Minnesota.