Legislative Update for Minnesota Employers

Paid leave bills advance and mobile phone hands-free bill introduced

By Bruce J. Douglas © Ogletree Deakins Mar 1, 2017

Employers with employees in Minnesota—and in particular, those with employees in the cities of Minneapolis and/or St. Paul—may be interested in the status of several bills that have been introduced in the Minnesota Legislature addressing the issue of paid leaves of absence, including safe and sick leave.

Preemption

Bills have been introduced in the Minnesota House (H.F. No. 600) and Senate (S.F. No. 580) to preempt the safe and sick leave ordinances enacted last year by the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, which are scheduled to take effect on July 1.

Both bills have cleared initial review in one or more committees and appear to be on track for passage in their respective chambers. However, it is likely that a free-standing preemption bill passed by the Republican-controlled legislature would be vetoed by Democratic Governor Mark Dayton.

More Leave Bills

Also in the legislature are several bills (H.F. No. 239, H.F. No. 1013, and S.F. No. 830) that would provide for various types of paid leaves of absence, including paid family leave and paid safe and sick leave.

In the case of paid family leave, the bills would create a funding mechanism similar to that of the unemployment insurance tax system. They would provide paid leave benefits for up to 12 weeks and would be administered by the state of Minnesota. No funding mechanism was provided, however, for safe and sick leave in the initial drafts of the bills.

None of these bills address preemption of municipal ordinances. Thus, at some point in the session, it is possible that the preemption bills (H.F. No. 600 and S.F. No. 580) and the paid leave bills could be presented to the governor as a single bill that would extend paid safe and sick leave and paid family leave to all Minnesota employees on a uniform basis and preempt municipal ordinances on the same subjects.

Mobile Phones

On a different topic, employers may wish to pay attention to a Minnesota bill (H.F. No. 340) that would prohibit the use of a "wireless communications device" while operating a motor vehicle.

Prohibited activities would include composing, reading or sending an electronic message; dialing, answering or talking on a cellular phone; and otherwise making a cellular phone call unless the actions could be performed on a hands-free basis. Currently, under Minnesota law, it is unlawful to text while driving or operating a motor vehicle. This bill extends the prohibition to phone calls. If it becomes law, the bill would apply to all drivers in the state of Minnesota.

H.F. No. 340's restrictions would be similar to those currently imposed on the use of handheld cellular phones and similar devices for commercial truck drivers under federal motor carrier regulations. This bill has not yet been reported out of committee.

Bruce J. Douglas is an attorney with Ogletree Deakins in Minneapolis. © Ogletree Deakins. All rights reserved. Reposted with permission.

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