By Doug Loon
Minnesota is blessed with a diverse business landscape – all sizes and types of companies that make up the economic fabric of our state from border to border. Visit any community and see for yourself.
A manufacturer with a couple of hundred employees working shifts. A Main Street retailer providing jobs for a dozen full- and part-time workers. A hospital whose round-the-clock operations often demand that it contracts with an out-of-town company to provide emergency services. A trucking company crisscrossing the state to serve its clients.
Each business has distinctive operations and workplace needs. Each develops wages and salaries, benefits, policies and procedures that best serve the needs of employer and employees. It’s a sure bet the companies don’t share a uniform employee handbook.
Yet, that’s exactly what the city of Minneapolis is mandating with a new ordinance requiring businesses to provide paid sick time leave. The law takes effect July 1, 2017. In a nutshell, companies with six or more employees must provide paid sick and safe time to all employees who work within the city limits at least 80 hours within a year. Companies must comply with the ordinance even if they do not have a location in the city – or even in Minnesota, for that matter.
The Minnesota Chamber has filed a lawsuit to challenge the paid sick time ordinance. The lawsuit asks the judge to strike down the ordinance and in the meantime prevent the city of Minneapolis from enforcing it. The ordinance is unlawful because it conflicts with state law and seeks to regulate in a policy area that is a statewide concern. Simply put, we seek to ensure consistency of workplace laws and prevent a patchwork of city-by-city workplace regulations.
Businesses already have an incentive to compete for employees by offering the best mix of wage and benefits packages. We wholeheartedly support and encourage employers to provide employees with flexible, paid options for providing care to their families.
Flexibility is the key, however. It’s a far better approach to have employers sit down with employees to develop policies that work for individual workplaces. Imposing a one-size-fits-all mandate stifles any creativity and flexibility with a straightjacket.
At the forefront of our efforts is collecting examples of “best practices” in paid sick leave policies from our members and sharing them with the broader business community. We’d like to hear from as many businesses as possible. Please send your examples to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our lawsuit, filed in conjunction with a group of co-plaintiffs, will be watched closely. St. Paul has passed a similar ordinance also scheduled to take effect July 1, 2017. Duluth is considering a local ordinance, too. It’s only a matter of time before other efforts “come to a town near you.”
Beyond the legal flaws, the Minneapolis law is particularly troublesome in practical ways:
- The ordinance imposes significant administrative burdens by requiring companies to track exactly how many hours their employees work within the city limits and to pay lawyers to interpret the ordinance. These burdens will become even greater if other cities enact their own varying ordinances.
- The ordinance extends far beyond the boundaries of Minneapolis. Companies that deliver goods and services into the city, who have employees who telecommute from Minneapolis, or who otherwise have employees who attend meetings and events in Minneapolis will find themselves subject to the ordinance – perhaps unwittingly.
The lawsuit parallels the Minnesota Chamber’s efforts at the Legislature to make explicit the fact that state law preempts municipal regulation of wages and benefits. We, along with our local chamber partners, will renew our efforts in 2017 after the Legislature failed to take action this year.
Employers need consistent, statewide workplace regulations. However, mandates on everyday business operations are not appropriate coming from any level of government. Businesses across the state already are adopting paid leave policies designed to meet the particular needs of their enterprise and their employees. State and local policymakers should be encouraging this trend and not imposing one-size-fits-all mandates.
Doug Loon is president of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce – www.mnchamber.com.