June 19, 2020

On June 10, 2020, the Minnesota Supreme Court upheld the Minneapolis Sick and Safe Time Ordinance, Confirming That it Can be Applied to Employers Located Outside of Minneapolis

The Minneapolis Sick and Safe Time Ordinance (“SST Ordinance”) applies to employees who work within the geographic boundaries of the city of Minneapolis for at least 80 hours per year (as defined by the SST Ordinance).  In accordance with the SST Ordinance, all such employees accrue sick and safe time, generally at the rate of one hour accrued for every 30 hours worked, subject to an annual maximum of 48 hours and a total amount (including unused time that is carried over from year-to-year) of 80 hours.

As written, all private sector employers must comply with the SST Ordinance, even if they do not have a physical location within the city.  Sick and safe time is only required to be accrued, however, for hours an individual works within the City of Minneapolis, and the use of accrued sick and safe time can be limited to hours that an employee is scheduled to work within Minneapolis.

After passage of the SST Ordinance, a lawsuit was brought challenging the legality of the SST Ordinance.  The lawsuit wound its way through the Minnesota court system (if interested in some of that process, click here), ultimately landing in the Minnesota Supreme Court.  Minn. Chamber of Commerce v. City of Minneapolis, A18-0771 (Minn. June 10, 2020).

In a 5-2 decision, the Minnesota Supreme Court upheld the SST Ordinance.  In doing so, the Court addressed two issues: (1) Whether state law preempts the SST Ordinance, and (2) Whether the SST Ordinance violates the extraterritoriality doctrine by regulating employers outside of Minneapolis.

The Supreme Court discussed preemption in depth.  So as not to bore the reader of this blog, I will spare you the details.  Suffice to say, the Court concluded that state law does not preempt the SST Ordinance.

With regard to the extraterritorial doctrine, the Court first recognized that it had only considered this issue twice in its history, both of which were over a century ago – once in 1896 and once in 1911.  In addressing the extraterritorial issue, the Supreme Court focused on whether the primary purpose and effect of the SST Ordinance was to regulate activity within Minneapolis.

Primary Purpose of the SST Ordinance: In passing the SST Ordinance, the Minneapolis City Council was concerned about the effect on the public when employees in Minneapolis report to work while they are sick and believed that access to paid sick time would have a positive effect on the health and well-being of the Minneapolis community.  As such, the Court concluded that the SST Ordinance’s primary purpose was to regulate activity within Minneapolis.

Primary Effect of the SST Ordinance: The Supreme Court next addressed the effect of the SST Ordinance.  In so doing, the Court focused on the fact that the SST Ordinance only requires that employees accrue SST for hours worked in Minneapolis and only requires that employees be allowed to use SST for time they would have been scheduled to work in Minneapolis.  With those limitations in place, the Court concluded that the SST Ordinance does not operate outside of Minneapolis.

Because the primary purpose and effect of the SST Ordinance was to regulate activity within Minneapolis, the Court upheld the SST Ordinance, agreeing with the Minnesota Court of Appeals that the SST Ordinance can be applied to employers located outside the city.

The Dissent: As noted, this was not a unanimous decision.  Two Justices – Chief Justice Lorie Gildea and Justice Barry Anderson – dissented because they believed the effects of the SST Ordinance extend beyond Minneapolis, which in their opinion would violate the extraterritorial doctrine.  In their opinion, “the reach of the Ordinance is extraordinary.”

Employer Action: Just because an employer does not have a physical location within the city of Minneapolis does not mean the SST Ordinance does not apply.  To the contrary, it does apply!  So, no matter where a business is physically located, if it has one or more employees who perform work in Minneapolis, it needs to know and understand the SST Ordinance.  To ensure compliance, this would be a good time for companies to review their recordkeeping, time tracking, and other policies.