Understanding and Implementing ESST: A Guide for Minnesota Employers

Earned Sick and Safe Time Minnesota

Mandatory Paid Sick and Safe Leave Goes Into Effect January 1, 2024

The much-publicized Earned Sick and Safe Leave Act goes into effect for all Minnesota employers on January 1. Modeled on similar ordinances already in effect for Minneapolis, Saint Paul, Duluth and Bloomington, this new legislation applies to all Minnesota employers and covers all Minnesota employees, whether full-time, part-time, permanent, or temporary, subject to certain exceptions for employees in the construction sector.

What is Earned Sick and Safe Time in Minnesota?

Earned Sick and Safe Time (ESST) is paid leave employers must provide to employees who work a minimum of 80 hours per year within the state. ESST can be used when an employee is absent due to the employee’s own illness, the illness of a family member needing care, or to seek assistance for an employee or their family member who has experienced domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking.

Under the law, an employee is granted one hour of ESST for every 30 hours worked, subject to a cap of 48 hours of each year. Yearly earnings do not need to follow the calendar year; employers have the freedom to define when a year starts under their ESST tracking system. It can be the employee’s anniversary date, a calendar year, the fiscal year, or any other year-marking date designated by the employer. ESST must be paid at the employee’s regular wage rate.

Using ESST: What Qualifies as Earned Sick and Safe Time?

Under the statute, employees can use their ESST for the following reasons:

  • the employee’s mental or physical illness, treatment or preventive care;
  • a family member’s mental or physical illness, treatment or preventive care;
  • absence due to domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking of the employee or a family member;
  • closure of the employee’s workplace due to weather or public emergency or closure of a family member’s school or care facility due to weather or public emergency; or
  • when determined by a health authority or health care professional that the employee or a family member is at risk of infecting others with a communicable disease.

Employers must carry over each employee’s accrued and unused ESST hours to the following year unless the employer chooses to “frontload” ESST hours. Total accruals including carryover amounts may be capped at 80 hours of ESST.

Front Loading ESST: Defined and Explained for MN Employers

Employers may frontload ESST by granting the required allocation of ESST at the beginning of the employer’s designated year. Front loaded hours need not be carried over from year to year. This lightens the employer’s recordkeeping load. Employers may choose whether hours will accrue each pay period or be frontloaded at the start of each year and can individualize the method used on an employee-by-employee basis.

For example, an employer may choose to frontload hours for employees that have one or two years of service, or require new employees to earn an hour of ESST for every 30 hours worked. Employers can also treat full-time and part-time employees differently, as long as the minimum requirements of the statute are met and the distinctions are not applied in a manner that discriminates against employees in violation of state or federal non-discrimination laws.

Note, however, that if an employer chooses to frontload 48 hours of ESST, unused ESST at the conclusion of the applicable year must be paid out to the employee. If the employer chooses to frontload 80 hours or more at the beginning of the year, and the employee does not use all 80 hours for applicable leave, the employer is not obligated to pay the employee for unused hours or to carry over those unused hours into the following year.

Additional Aspects of Minnesota’s Earned Sick and Safe Leave Act

In addition, the Earned Sick and Safe Leave Act requires employers to:

  • include on employee payroll earnings statements the total number of the ESST hours the employee has used and has available for use;
  • provide current employees with written notice by Jan. 1 (and new employees on their start date), in English and in the employee’s primary language, informing them about their rights to ESST; and
  • include a sick and safe time notice in the employee handbook, if the employer has an employee handbook.

The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry has created a uniform employee notice that employers can use. It is in English and translated into 17 additional languages.

For employers who offer current sick leave or paid time off to employees which exceeds the minimum as required by this statute, the only obligations will be to:

  1. revise their employee handbooks to include a statement of employee rights under the Earned Sick and Safe Leave Act;
  2. send the notice required by the statute; and
  3. ensure that their employee earnings statements comply with the ESST tracking requirements.

Employers that do not offer current sick leave or PTO that meets these minimum standards must revise their policies to ensure that they meet these minimum requirements.

Avisen Legal Can Help You Implement ESST

Navigating the complexities of this new law can be challenging, and non-compliance has legal consequences. Avisen Legal‘s experienced Employment Law practice is here to provide guidance and ensure your business complies with the Earned Sick and Safe Leave Act. Contact us today for assistance in understanding and implementing this important legislation, prioritizing both your employees’ well-being and legal compliance.

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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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