Minnesota Supreme Court Affirms Validity of Minneapolis Sick Leave Ordinance

The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled this week that the Minneapolis Sick and Safe Time (SST) Ordinance is not preempted by state law.  This should end the extensive litigation that has been generated over this ordinance since even before its effective date back on July 1, 2017.

This ordinance obligates all employers to provide up to 48 hours of sick leave to employees working at least 80 hours a year in Minneapolis (the leave can be unpaid for employers with fewer than 6 employees).  The ordinance applies even if the business is located outside of Minneapolis – if their employees work the requisite hours within the city limits, they must receive sick leave.

The Arguments

The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce was the primary force behind the legal challenge, arguing that the ordinance is preempted by the Minnesota sick leave statute.  That statute states that if an employer grants paid sick leave benefits, they must allow employees to use those benefits for absences occasioned by sick family members. The Chamber contended that since the statute acknowledges that some employers do not provide paid sick leave, this must be considered legislative authorization for them to refrain from doing so.  As such, an ordinance mandating such benefits conflicts with state law.

The Chamber further claimed that the SST ordinance violates the “extraterritoriality doctrine” because it applies to employers not physically located within the city.

The Ruling

On the preemption argument, the Court concluded that state law did not “expressly permit what the Ordinance forbids.” The court acknowledged that the Minneapolis SST Ordinance “imposes requirements stricter than the statute,” but the Court found that “the additional terms only further the policy underlying the statute rather than posing an irreconcilable conflict.” In short, the statute seeks only to imposes requirements on that group of employers who provide paid sick leave, and that group now includes anyone who has employees working 80 or more hours in Minneapolis.

As for extraterritoriality, the Court concluded that the SST Ordinance is valid because it applies only to work performed within the city of Minneapolis, something that the City has the authority to regulate.

Bottom  Line

It seems pretty certain that this decision will be relied upon if similar challenges persist in regard to the comparable sick leave ordinances in St.  Paul and Duluth.

Thus, for those cities (and any others who might adopt this requirement in the future), paid sick leave will remain the “law of the land.”