Thursday, March 19, 2015

Are More Protections for Minnesota Working Parents on the Way?

We recently alerted you to proposed legislation that, if passed, would expand last year’s Minnesota Women’s Economic Security Act (WESA) by requiring paid “sick and safe” time off benefits for almost all Minnesota employees and extending pregnancy accommodation and parental leave obligations to all Minnesota employers.  You should be aware that Minnesota lawmakers are at it again. Late last month, additional legislation (HF 1093 and SF 1085) was proposed that is aimed at benefiting working parents. Together with the earlier proposed sick and safe leave bill, the legislation is being referred to as the “Working Parents Act.” 

If enacted, the Working Parents Act would considerably expand WESA and impose a number of significant new obligations on all Minnesota employers related to work schedules, pay, breaks, and flexible work schedules. While most of the proposed changes appear to be the type that would normally be aimed at non-exempt employees subject to timekeeping and overtime pay requirements, the legislation is drafted to extend to all employees – whether exempt or non-exempt. As currently proposed, the “Working Parents Act” would include the following new requirements:

Fair Scheduling: All Minnesota employers would be required to:
  • Provide each employee a written work schedule, including any on-call time, at least 21 days in advance; 
  • For new employees, provide a written work schedule on or before the beginning of employment covering the employee’s first 21 days;
  • Notify each employee of any changes in his/her work schedule before the change takes effect and provide a revised written work schedule reflecting the changes within 24 hours of making the change;
  • Post a written schedule of the shifts of all current employees at the worksite, whether or not they are scheduled for work or on-call that week, at least 21 days before the start of each work week and update the posting  within 24 hours of any change;
  • Start an employee’s work week on the same day of each week;
  • Not require an employee to work hours not included in the employee’s written work schedule without the employee’s written consent; and
  • Not require an employee to seek or find a replacement employee for any shifts or hours the employee is unable to work.
Predictability Pay: All Minnesota employers would be required to provide compensation to an employee for certain changes made to the employee’s work schedule less than 21 days in advance, as follows:
  • If the change or cancellation is made less than 21 days but more than 24 hours in advance, the employer would pay the employee one hour of “predictability pay” in addition to the wages earned during the changed shift;
  • If the change is made less than 24 hours in advance, but does not reduce the total hours of the shift, the employer would pay the employee one hour of “predictability pay” in addition to the wages earned during the changed shift; and
  • If the change or cancellation is made less than 24 hours in advance and reduces the total hours of the shift, the employer would pay the employee “predictability pay” equal to the lesser of four hours or the number of hours originally scheduled, in addition to the wages earned during the changed shift.
Nondiscrimination Based on Hours of Work: Minnesota employers could not pay employees a different rate of pay based on the number of hours the employee is scheduled to work. In addition, employers could not condition eligibility for leave, time off, raises, or promotions on the number of hours an employee is scheduled to work, but would be able to pro-rate employee leave or time off based on hours worked.

Right to Rest: Employees would have the right to decline work hours that occur either: (1) less than eleven (11) hours after the end of the employee’s prior shift or (2) during the eleven (11) hours following the end of a shift that spanned two days.  Employers would be required to compensate employees who do work such hours at one and one-half times the employee’s regular rate of pay.

Rest and Meal Breaks: The new law would require one paid rest break of at least 10 minutes for every four consecutive hours of work and one unpaid meal break of at least 30 minutes for employees who work at least five consecutive hours.

Interactive Process for Flexible Work Arrangements: All Minnesota employers would be required to engage in an “interactive process” in response to an employee’s request for a “flexible working arrangement,” such as a modified work schedule, changes in start and end times, a predictable and stable schedule, part-time employment, job sharing, telecommuting, changes in job duties or work site, or partial-year employment. If the employee’s request is based on the employee’s serious health condition, responsibilities as a caregiver, enrollment in a career-related educational or training program, or, in the case of part-time employees, second job, the employer “must grant the request.”

In addition, the proposed Working Parents Act would:
  • Require employers to offer additional hours of work available in existing positions to current qualified employees before hiring new employees or contractors.
  • Require employers to provide written statements with detailed information about the terms and conditions of employment to employees annually and at the time of hire.
  • Increase potential penalties for violations of Minnesota wage and hour laws and potential criminal liability for some violations of the Minnesota Fair Labor Standards Act. 
  • Increase the statute of limitations to six years for any claims for the recovery of unpaid wages or overtime.
Stay tuned for developing information about this proposed Minnesota legislation. If so inclined, readers can contact their state representatives to voice their opinions on the Working Parents Act.

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