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A variety of employment bills have been considered by committees this week that could impact city operations.
(Published Mar 11, 2013)
A variety of bills have been introduced this session that would modify an array of employment law statutes, impacting city operations. Bills recently heard include proposals to increase the minimum wage, modify prompt payment of wage requirements, expand pregnancy leave options, and reduce the threshold for payment of overtime wages.
There are at least five bills that would modify the state minimum wage, including HF 92 (Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley). The bill was heard in the House Jobs and Economic Development Finance and Policy Committee.
Under the amended Winkler bill, the minimum wage defined in Minnesota Statutes, section 177.24 would increase for large employers (with business volume in excess of $625,000 per year) from the current $6.15 per hour to $8.35 per hour on Aug. 1, 2013; $9.45 per hour on Aug. 1, 2014; and $10.55 per hour on Aug. 1, 2015.
Small employers (with business volume under $625,000 per year) would see an increase in the minimum wage from the current $5.25 per hour to $6.50 per hour on Aug. 1, 2013; $7.75 per hour on Aug. 1, 2014; and $9.00 per hour on Aug. 1, 2015.
Beginning on Jan. 1, 2016, the minimum wage amounts for both large and small employers would be increased by the rate of inflation as measured by the consumer price index for all urban consumers.
Employers in the state must pay the higher of the applicable state or federal minimum wage. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. Therefore, in most situations, larger cities (annual revenues of $625,000 per year or more) will be impacted beginning on Aug. 1, 2013. Smaller cities (annual revenue of $625,000 per year or less) will be impacted beginning Aug. 1, 2014. The federal minimum wage law is also being discussed in Congress and could be increased as well.
In addition, one provision of this bill prohibits an employer from reducing the wages, hours, or other benefits of a worker in order to implement the higher minimum wage.
A bill introduced by Rep. Phyllis Kahn (DFL-Minneapolis), HF 463, would require an employer to grant an unpaid leave not to exceed 12 weeks to a female employee disabled by pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition. The bill would also allow an employee to utilize all available accrued vacation or sick leave during the leave. The employer may require the employee to give reasonable notice of the leave.
The bill would also require an employer to provide reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, including but not limited to seating, frequent restroom breaks, and limits on heavy lifting. The bill requires the employer to make accommodations upon request of the employee and with the advice of a health care provider.
The bill also requires an employer to transfer a pregnant female employee to a less strenuous or hazardous position, with the advice of a physician and upon her request, where the transfer can be reasonably accommodated.
The bill was heard in the House Labor, Workplace and Regulated Industries Committee but was tabled due to concerns raised about the interaction of the proposed legislation with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Minnesota Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Minnesota Human Rights Act, and the Minnesota Parenting Leave statute that currently allows six weeks of unpaid leave for pregnancy-related conditions.
Prompt payment of wages
Rep. Steve Simon, (DFL-St. Louis Park) has introduced HF 748, a bill that would modify the prompt payment of wages requirements in Minnesota Statutes, sections 181.13 and 181.14. Under the bill, an employee who is being discharged or resigns from employment must be paid all wages at the “regular rate of pay or at the rate required by law, whichever rate is greater.” This would likely come into play for cities if there is a dispute about the “regular rate of pay” under the terms of a union agreement or a personnel policy. “Regular rate of pay” is not defined under the new law, but there is a definition of “regular rate of pay” in the federal Fair Labor Standards Act that includes nearly all forms of compensation except benefits and expense reimbursements.
The bill allows “compensatory damages” equal to the amount of wages that were earned and unpaid. The employee’s demand for payment does not need to be in writing or state the precise amount of unpaid wages.
The bill also clarifies that employers cannot make deductions from wages due at time of discharge for lost, stolen, or damaged property of the employer, unless the deduction is voluntarily authorized by the employee in writing after the loss has occurred.
Overtime hour threshold
Rep. Jason Metsa (DFL-Virginia) has introduced HF 763, a bill that makes several changes to employment law statutes, including the overtime threshold. Under the bill, the current 48-hour overtime threshold would be reduced to 40 hours.
In most instances, this will not impact cities because the federal threshold of 40 hours is already required for most positions. However, because of federal exemptions for seasonal/recreational establishments, there may be some sectors of city employment impacted by the lower limit of 40 hours. Cities that currently take advantage of this 48-hour limit for lifeguards at beaches and outdoor swimming pools or for golf course employees would now be subject to the same 40-hour limit as other city employees.
The bill would also eliminate the current small business/large business minimum wage structure, create a single Minnesota minimum wage requirement for all employers, and increase the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour. The $7.25 per hour requirement, again, will not impact city operations in most cases because most city employees fall under the requirements of the federal minimum wage law of $7.25 per hour. However, there may be a few situations where cities are not paying at the federal minimum wage law due to a federal exemption.
In addition, the bill would extend the current six-week unpaid leave for birth or adoption of a child to 12 weeks.
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(651) 281-1255 or (800) 925-1122
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