Minnesota Employment Law Update

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The legislature was busy during the 2013 legislative session with employment laws. The legislature passed several changes to Minnesota laws affecting employers and their employees. The following article discusses some of the highlights from the session related to employment law changes.

1. Criminal background checks
Effective January 1, 2014, the circumstances in which employers may request information regarding an applicant’s arrests or convictions has been restricted. Under the new law, public and private employers cannot inquire into, consider or require disclosure of an applicant’s criminal history until after the applicant has been selected for an interview, or if there is not an interview, before a conditional offer of employment is made. Since 2009 Minnesota law has prevented public employers from requesting criminal background information on job applications.

The law provides an exception for employers with a statutory duty to conduct criminal background checks or otherwise consider applicants’ criminal history during the hiring process. Therefore, employers hiring for certain types of positions – for example, positions working with children in schools- are permitted to inquire about criminal history at the application phase. However, employers should be careful to inquire only about offenses that may be specified by statute, and they should not ask criminal history questions of all applicatns, if the employer does not have a statutory duty to conduct background checks for all positions.

It is important that employer’s remove questions regarding an applicant’s criminal history from their initial job application, unless the position is covered by a statutory exception.

2. Use of sick leave to care for family members
The legislature amended Minnesota law to expand the use of employee sick leave. Currently, employees may use sick leave provided by their employers to care for their sick or injured children who are under 20 and attending secondary school. Under the amended statute, employees may use sick leave benefits for “absences due to an illness of or injury to the employee’s child, . . . adult child, spouse, sibling, parent, grandparent, or stepparent, for reasonable periods of time as the employee’s attendance may be necessary, on the same terms upon which the employee is able to use sick leave for the employee’s own illness or injury.” The new law applices to employers with 21 or more employees at one site, and applies only to sick leave benefits paid to employees from employers’ general assets, and does not include short or long term disability benefits or other salary continuation benefits.

The amended statute goes into effect on August 1, 2013, and applies to sick leave used on or after that date. Minnesota employers that provide paid sick leave to their employees should revise their policies by August 1 to ensure compliance.

3. Service animals
Effective August 1, 2013 the law regarding the use of service animals in public establishments was expanded. It is an unfair discriminatory practice for an owner or operator of a public place to prohibit a person with a disability from taking a service animal into the public place. The statute previously limited protection to service animals that could be properly identified as being from a recognized program which trains service animals. The new law states only that the animal cannot be barred “if the service animal is properly harnessed or leashed so that the blind or deaf person or person with the physical or sensory disability may maintain control of the service animal.”

The experienced Commercial Litigation and Employment Lawyers at Barna, Guzy and Steffen can help you navigate the new laws as they take affect. If you have questions we would be happy to help you, please call or email us today!

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