Employers across the state have all sorts of approaches to sick time, vacation time, and personal leave. Some leaves are paid, some are not. Some leaves are based in state law, others federal law and, in some cases, even city ordinance. So, what exactly is a Minnesota employee entitled to?
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
The FMLA is a federal law that covers all employers that have 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius. Those employers must allow an eligible employee up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave from work in the following situations:
- Recuperating from their own serious illness or caring for a seriously ill family member
- Recovering from childbirth
- Recovering from an injury, surgery, or other medical procedure
Generally speaking, the FMLA protects your job and benefits while you are out on leave. However, you can lose your job while on leave if you would have also lost it had you been at work (e.g., company-wide layoffs). An employer cannot retaliate against an employee for using FMLA benefits.
Minnesota pregnancy/parenting leave
Minnesota state law provides parental leave for those working for smaller employers. Any employer with at least 21 employees must allow an employee who has been employed at least 12 months (not necessarily consecutively) up to 12 weeks unpaid leave in conjunction with the birth or adoption of a child, including pregnancy related health conditions. Accrued PTO may be used in conjunction with the the parenting leave, so long as the total leave does not exceed 12 weeks. This may run concurrently with FMLA.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA)
Employers with at least 15 employees fall under the ADA and the MHRA requirements to provide a “reasonable accommodation” for a disability. Sometimes a leave of absence can be deemed a reasonable accommodation, though an indefinite leave would be unreasonable.
School conferences and activities leave
Parents working for a small Minnesota business can take advantage of 16 hours of unpaid time off in a 12-month period to attend school conferences and other activities for their kids (including foster kids). Any employer with at least one employee must provide this “school activities” leave.
Minnesota provides paid time off for voting
State law protects everyone’s right to do their civic duty when election time rolls around. Under Minnesota law, an employer cannot require you to use vacation time to vote, or dock your pay for leaving work to vote. If the time someone needs to vote falls within their working hours, their employer must pay for the time it takes to travel to their polling place, cast their vote, and return to work.
The Minnesota Secretary of State’s office even provides this letter employees can use as a reminder of their voting rights.
Sick Time/ Vacation Time
Though most employers do provide paid time off (PTO) for sick/vacation time, there is no state or federal law that requires it (paid or unpaid). However, both St. Paul and Minneapolis have city ordinances to the contrary and require certain amounts of “sick and safe time” (i.e., time off to deal with an illness or a safety issue, like domestic abuse or stalking). The City of Duluth has passed a similar ordinance that will take effect on January 1, 2020.
Other types of leave
There are other types of leave, too – both required and voluntary – for example, military leave, organ donation, bone marrow donation, bereavement, and jury duty. For more information, consult with an employment law attorney.