Minnesota Employee Handbook Overhaul: Preparing for Upcoming Employment Law Changes

Minnesota Employee Handbook

Employee handbooks are essential tools for setting workplace expectations, communicating company policies, and ensuring legal compliance. However, as employment laws evolve, it’s crucial to keep your handbook up-to-date.

In this article, we’ll guide you through the process of updating your employee handbook in anticipation of upcoming requirement changes in Minnesota.

New Laws Requiring Review of Minnesota Employee Handbooks

Laws and regulations governing the employer-employee relationship continue to evolve, and employee handbook must reflect those changes.

The Importance of Staying Informed

Before we delve into the specifics of updating your employee handbook, let’s emphasize the critical importance of staying informed about significant requirement changes that Minnesota employers need to prepare for. As an employer, you have a legal and ethical responsibility to ensure that your workplace policies and practices align with the latest legal standards.

Why Anticipation Matters

Anticipating upcoming changes is not just about meeting legal obligations; it’s also about creating a workplace that reflects the values of fairness, equity, and respect for your employees. When you proactively anticipate and address legal changes, you send a clear message to your workforce that you value their rights and well-being. It also helps you maintain trust and credibility with your employees, regulators, and the community.

Nursing Mother Notice in Minnesota: What Employers Need to Include

Understanding the Requirement: One of the notable changes in Minnesota employment law is the requirement to provide a nursing mother notice. This legal requirement is designed to ensure that nursing mothers are supported in the workplace by informing them of their rights related to expressing breast milk.

Incorporating the Notice: To effectively incorporate the nursing mother notice into your employee handbook, you’ll want to create a dedicated section that not only addresses the legal obligation but also communicates your company’s commitment to fostering an inclusive and supportive work environment.

Explaining Employee Rights: In this handbook section, clearly explain the rights of nursing mothers. This includes their right to reasonable break time for expressing breast milk, as well as the provision of a private, sanitary space for this purpose. Ensure that employees understand that these rights are protected by Minnesota law and cannot be infringed upon.

Process for Requesting Accommodations: Describe the process for requesting accommodations related to expressing breast milk. Provide guidance on whom to contact within the company to make such requests and emphasize that these requests should be handled promptly and with sensitivity to the needs of the employee.

Commitment to Supporting Nursing Mothers: Express your company’s commitment to supporting nursing mothers in the workplace. Highlight the importance of creating a culture that values and respects the needs of all employees, including those who are breastfeeding. This may include mentioning the availability of lactation rooms or other facilities that facilitate nursing mothers.

Training and Sensitization: Consider incorporating a section in your handbook that addresses employee training and sensitization regarding these rights. This can involve educating all employees about the rights of nursing mothers to create an inclusive atmosphere where everyone is aware and respectful of each other’s needs.

Pregnancy Accommodation Notice: Ensuring Compliance in Your Minnesota Handbook

The Need for a Pregnancy Accommodation Notice: Another significant change in Minnesota employment law involves the inclusion of a pregnancy accommodation notice. This notice serves the important purpose of ensuring that pregnant employees are aware of their rights to reasonable accommodations during their pregnancy.

Outlining Commitment to Accommodations: In your employee handbook, it’s vital to dedicate a section that outlines your company’s commitment to accommodating pregnant employees. This demonstrates your dedication to providing a supportive and inclusive workplace.

Understanding Employee Rights: In this section, explain the rights of pregnant employees. Describe the types of accommodations that may be requested, which can include changes in work duties, schedules, or job assignments to accommodate their needs. Make it clear that employees have the right to request these accommodations, and these requests should be handled promptly and with sensitivity.

Process for Requesting Accommodations: Provide guidance on how employees can request accommodations during their pregnancy. Clarify whom they should contact within the company to initiate the process and the steps involved. Encourage open communication and assure employees that their requests will be handled confidentially.

Anti-Discrimination Commitment: Emphasize your company’s commitment to non-discrimination. Pregnancy accommodations should be provided without fear of retaliation or discrimination. Encourage employees to report any issues or concerns related to pregnancy accommodations so that they can be addressed promptly.

Training and Awareness: Consider incorporating information about employee training and awareness in your handbook. Promote a workplace culture that respects the needs of pregnant employees and educates all staff members about pregnancy accommodation rights and responsibilities.

Employee Handbook

Employee Sick and Safe Leave (Effective Jan 1st, 2024): Handbook Updates

Understanding the Change: Starting January 1st, 2024, Minnesota employers will be required to comply with new employee sick and safe leave requirements. Effectively, the sick and safe requirements adopted several years ago in Minneapolis, Saint Paul, Duluth, and Bloomington, will have statewide application effective January 1, 2024. This is a significant change that has implications for your company’s policies and employee handbook.

Summary of new Requirements: Effective January 1, 2024, all Minnesota employers are required to provide Employee Sick and Safe Leave (ESSL) to all employees, including part-time and temporary employees, who work for an employer within the State of Minnesota for at least 80 hours in the year.

  • Employees accrue one hour for every 30 hours worked and may accrue up to 48 hours of ESSL in the 12- month benefit period.
    • The benefit period may be calendar year, employee anniversary, or some other annual date selected by the employer.
    • Employees may carry over any accrued, unused ESSL into the new 12-month benefit period, but employers may cap the amount of accrued leave to 80 hours.
    • Employees may use ESSL as they accrue it.
  • Alternatively, employers may frontload ESSL at the beginning of a 12-month benefit period by:
    • Providing 48 hours of ESSL at the beginning of the annual benefit period if the employer pays out accrued but unused ESSL at the end of the 12-month benefit period; or
    • Granting 80 hours of sick and safe time at the beginning of the year if the employer does not pay out accrued and unused ESSL at the end of the 12-month benefit period.
  • Eligible employees may take earned sick and safe time: for the employee’s mental or physical illness, injury, or other health condition or for preventive care; to care for a family member; for absence due to domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking of the employee or the employee’s family member; for closure of the employee’s place of business due to weather, public emergency, or the need to care for a family member whose school or place of care has been closed due to weather or public emergency.
  • Employees may also use ESSL if they are unable to work or telework because the employer prohibits them from going to work due to health concerns related to the potential transmission of a communicable illness related to a public emergency. They can also use ESSL if they need to secure a test for or receive a medical diagnosis of a communicable disease related to a public emergency after being exposed to the disease, or if the employer has requested the test or diagnosis. Furthermore, ESSL can be used when health authorities or a healthcare professional determine that the presence of the employee or their family member in the community would jeopardize the health of others due to exposure to a communicable disease, regardless of whether the employee or family member has actually contracted the disease.

Accrual Process: In your updated handbook, detail the accrual process for employee sick and safe leave. Explain how employees accrue leave, whether it’s based on hours worked or another method. Clarify the maximum accrual limits and any rollover provisions that apply. Make sure employees understand how their accrued leave is calculated and tracked.

Permissible Reasons for Leave: Clearly outline the permissible reasons for which employees can use sick and safe leave. Minnesota law typically allows employees to use this leave for their own illness or injury, the illness or injury of a family member, domestic violence-related reasons, or to attend school conferences or meetings related to their child’s education. Include specific examples to help employees understand when they can use this leave.

Documentation Requirements: Address any documentation requirements associated with employee sick and safe leave. For instance, you might require employees to provide advance notice of their need for leave in certain situations. Ensure that employees are aware of any documentation they need to submit and the deadlines for doing so.

Employee Responsibilities: Clearly communicate employees’ responsibilities when it comes to requesting and using sick and safe leave. Encourage employees to provide timely notice of their need for leave and follow the company’s established procedures for requesting and reporting leave usage.

Legal Rights and Protections: Emphasize that using sick and safe leave is a protected right for employees under Minnesota law. Inform employees that they cannot face retaliation or adverse employment actions for using this leave in accordance with the law.

School Conference and Activity Leave

The Minnesota School Conference and Activity Leave statute now applies es to all employers regardless of the number of employees. The prior iteration only applied to employers with 21 or more employees. This law requires employers to provide an employee unpaid leave of up to 16 hours per year to attend school conferences and other school-related activities, if the event cannot be scheduled during non-work hours.

Minnesota Human Rights Act Updates

The Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA) was updated to define race as “inclusive of traits associated with race, including but not limited to hair texture and hair styles such as braids, locs, and twists.”

Effective January 1, 2024, the MHRA will also include a ban on inquiring into an applicant’s pay history. Employers may not ask, consider, or require disclosure from any source of the pay history of an applicant for employment. Pay history includes a prior or current wage, salary, earnings, benefits, or any other compensation about an applicant for employment. This prohibition does not apply if the applicant’s pay history is a matter of public record under federal or state law, unless the employer seeks to information for the purpose of determining wages, salary, earnings, benefits, or other compensation for that applicant. If, however, the applicant voluntarily discloses his or her pay history to a prospective employer, the employer can consider or act on the voluntarily disclosed information but only to support a higher wage or salary.

On Jan. 1, 2024, the Minnesota Human Rights Act will include a pay history inquiry ban. The new law prohibits employers, employment agencies, and labor organizations from inquiring, considering, or requiring disclosure from any source the pay history of an applicant for employment for the purpose of determining wages, salary, earnings, benefits, or other compensation for that applicant. Pay history is broadly defined as any prior or current wage, salary, earnings, benefits, or any other compensation about an applicant for employment.

The general prohibition against inquiring into the pay history of an applicant does not apply if the job applicant’s pay history is a matter of public record under federal or state law, unless the employer, employment agency, or labor organization sought access to those public records with the intent of obtaining pay history of the applicant for the purpose of determining wages, salary, earnings, benefits, or other compensation for that applicant.

If an applicant voluntarily discloses pay history to a prospective employer, employment agency, or labor organization, the covered hiring entity can consider or act on the voluntarily disclosed salary history information to support a wage or salary higher.

The law is effective Jan. 1, 2024. Employers should review applications and train any applicable employees on proper interview techniques prior to the new year. For employment covered by collective bargaining agreements, this law is not effective until the date of implementation of the applicable collective bargaining agreement after Jan. 1, 2024.

Wage Disclosure Protection

Minnesota law permits employees to voluntarily discuss their wages. The provision prohibiting employers from “retaliating against an employee” was amended this year to prohibit employers from “discharging, disciplining, penalizing, interfering with, threatening, restraining, coercing, or discriminating against an employee” for asserting rights or remedies under the law. Because the law requires employers who provide employees with a handbook to include a notice of employee rights and remedies under this law, the language in the handbook must be revised to include the new language.

Minnesota Employee Handbook Elements

Ensuring Compliance: Essential Elements in Your Minnesota Employee Handbook

While updating your handbook for upcoming changes is crucial, it’s equally important to ensure compliance with existing regulations. Here are several critical compliance areas to address:

  • Employee Access to Personnel File: Review and update your handbook to reflect employees’ rights to access their personnel files, including the process and conditions for doing so. Ensure that your handbook is compliant with Minnesota’s regulations in this regard.
  • Employee Rights to Be Made Aware of Wage Theft Changes: Stay current with wage theft law changes and ensure your handbook reflects these changes. Employees should be informed of any updates or modifications to wage theft regulations.
  • Family Medical Leave for Employers with 50+ Employees: If your company has 50 or more employees, ensure your handbook accurately outlines their rights and your obligations related to family medical leave, aligning with both state and federal laws.

The Minnesota Wage Disclosure Protection law, which permits employees to voluntarily discuss their wages, previously included a provision prohibiting employers from retaliating against employees. That provision has been amended to prohibit employers from discharging, disciplining, penalizing, interfering with, threatening, restraining, coercing, or discriminating against an employee for asserting rights or remedies under the law. The existing law requires employers who provide employees with a handbook to include a notice of employee rights and remedies. Therefore, existing handbook policies should be revised to include the new employer prohibitions. This change is effective July 1, 2023.

Legal Assistance for Your Minnesota Handbook Updates

Updating your employee handbook to reflect upcoming requirement changes and ensuring compliance with existing regulations is essential to maintaining a fair, transparent, and legally sound workplace in Minnesota. Keep in mind that employment laws can be complex, and staying current requires legal expertise. If you have questions or need assistance with  updating your employee handbook, consult with Avisen Legal’s experienced employment law professionals. We have deep experience in employment law and can help you navigate these changes seamlessly.

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Bill Egan

Bill Egan

I have 30+ years of experience representing executives, business owners, private enterprises and small-to-midsize public companies as an advisor, counselor and advocate on matters relating to the employment relationship. Informed by years of experience with both routine and unusual employment relationships and workplace situations, I bring a pragmatic, realistic and results-oriented perspective to issues arising in the workplace. Read Bill's Bio.

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