Omnibus Workforce Bill Passes House and is Headed for Senate

After over a year of executive orders from the Minnesota governor aimed at protecting workers and the public in general, the Minnesota state legislature has gotten in on the act and is close to passing a bill aimed at protecting employees.  The omnibus workforce and business development bill has passed the House and is headed to the Senate for its approval.

The bill touches on many aspects of the workforce throughout Minnesota, but there are several items that affect employers in significant ways.  Aside from a number of grants for businesses throughout the state, the bill includes a family and medical benefits program, which would establish a state-run insurance program to partially reimburse lost wages for workers taking family or medical leave.  This would allow for partial wage replacement for up to 12 weeks per year for a worker’s own serious health condition AND 12 weeks to care for a family member’s serious health condition.

There are also several changes possible for the state’s unemployment insurance program.  Contracted school workers who are normally unemployed between school terms would qualify for unemployment, as would high school students who meet eligibility requirements.  The bill would consider COVID-related leaves of absence to be involuntary, and allow applicants to remain eligible for unemployment benefits.

For those who weren’t aware, an earned sick and safe time proposal was already passed prior to the passing of the omnibus bill, but is included in this bill.  That proposal mandates that employees receive at least 48 hours of sick and safe time each year at their regular rates of pay.  Employees could use this leave for their own or a family member’s illness, attend appointments, seek support after sexual assaults or care for children during day care closures.  Currently, three cities – Duluth, Minneapolis, and St. Paul – have sick and safe time through city ordinances.  It will be interesting to see how this act conflicts with the ordinances.

The bill also includes a number of sector-specific worker protections, including in the hospitality, oil refinery, and meat processing industries.  However, one portion of the bill will require employers to provide nursing and lactating workers with paid time to express milk.  While there were guarantees in place for nursing mothers prior to this act, there had been no requirement for paid time to express milk.

This is the House’s second effort in getting an omnibus workforce bill through to the governor, and it likely will not pass the senate without additional amendment.  But these are significant changes for employers statewide, and you need to be prepared for them.  We will keep our eyes on how this bill develops, and provide updates as soon as a final bill is passed.  If you, or your organization, need assistance in complying with new workplace laws that impact you, contact the Wiley Law Office, for up-to-date advice that works.