Effective August 1, Minnesota employers with 21 or more employees may have to change their sick leave policies. A change to Minnesota law, enacted during the 2013 legislative session, requires employers that offer paid sick leave benefits to allow the use of those benefits for absenses related to illness or injury of an adult child, spouse, sibling, parent, grandparent, or stepparent.
Previously, the law had required employers to allow use of paid sick leave only for absences due to the employee's own illness or the illness or injury of a child. The new legislation, which amends a Minnesota statute in effect since 1990, also broadens the definition of “child” to specifically include stepchildren and foster children as well as biological and adopted children.
This change generally will not affect employers who use only a PTO system that allows employees to take personal time off for any reason.
Under the new legislation, an employer may choose to limit to no less than 160 hours per year the use of paid sick leave for absences related to someone other than the employee’s child. In addition, the amendment leaves unchanged the fact that the right to use sick leave applies only for “such reasonable periods as the employee's attendance [with the injured or sick person] may be necessary.”
The statute amended by this new legislation has never applied to insured disability benefits, but only to sick leave paid out of “the employer’s general assets.” This continues to be the case under the amendment.
An employee who feels that he or she has been denied sick leave in violation of this law can sue the employer directly in state court. If the employee succeeds in showing that the employer has maintained or enforced unlawful restrictions on the use of personal sick leave benefits, the employee may recover any money damages incurred, and the employer will be required to pay the employee’s attorney’s fees.
Employers should examine their sick leave benefits policies before August 1 to ensure that they comply with this newly broadened legal requirement.