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More MN workers would receive paid sick and safe time under bill passed in House

(House Photography file photo)

More than 900,000 workers in Minnesota lack access to paid time off to deal with medical issues for themselves or family members, according to Rep. Liz Olson (DFL-Duluth).

She sponsors a bill that would make available those hours.

HF41 would provide one hour of paid sick and safe time for every 30 hours worked. Workers could earn up to 48 hours a year and carry over up to 80 unused hours from year to year.

The bill was passed 69-62 by the House on Monday and sent to the Senate where it’s sponsored by Sen. Erin Murphy (DFL-St. Paul).

Olson said it is “unfathomable” that any worker in Minnesota would have to choose between going to work sick or losing a paycheck and citing other no-win scenarios some face.

“Parents that send their kids to day care praying that their kid’s fever won’t spike, they won’t get the call to have to come pick them up,” she said. “Parents leaving their kids sick in the nurse’s office at school and avoiding picking up the phone because they can’t leave work or they will lose pay.”

Olson said 16 states have adopted similar policies. She said the employer cost would be 0.75% of the cost of labor.

The bill would cover employees working at least 80 hours in a year for an employer. The earned sick and safe time would accrue immediately and could be used after working 90 days.

Eligible uses for the sick and safe time would be:

  • an employee’s mental or physical illness, treatment, or preventative care;
  • care of a sick family member or a family member in need of preventative care or treatment;
  • absence related to domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking of an employee or family member;
  • closure of an employee’s workplace or a family member’s school or day care due to weather or public emergency; and
  • a determination by a health care provider that an employee or family member is at risk of infecting others with a communicable disease.

Employees would receive their regular hourly rate of pay for earned sick and safe time and would be required to notify the employer up to seven days in advance or as soon as practicable. Employers could require documentation when employees are absent three or more days.

The bill would prohibit an employer from retaliating against an employee who uses the time, an employer would have to reinstate a worker to the same or a comparable position after returning, and an employer would have to keep records of hours worked and earned sick and safe time accrued and used by employees. Employers would not be required to pay earned sick and safe time upon separation.

Republicans feel the proposed legislation would be harmful to business, particularly small businesses.

“This bill is nothing more than a direct assault on job creators,” said Rep. Tony Albright (R-Prior Lake).

Rep. Dave Baker (R-Willmar) added: “Let’s stop the madness. Let’s stop the piling on job creators because it’s the flavor of the day. This bill of doing it from everybody with one employee, one size fits all, is a horrible idea and should not be done at this time.”

Olson believes the bill would help small businesses.

“When we require everyone in the state to provide this benefit, it will help out the small employers that are already doing it because they’re good employers,” Olson said. “And I worked with business owners to create this bill.”

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