Minnesota House debates safe and sick time mandate – Twin Cities

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All Minnesota workers would be eligible for paid sick and safe time under a bill House lawmakers are debating Thursday.

House Democrats have approved similar bills several times before only to see them stall in the Republican-led Senate. Now that Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party members have a one-seat Senate majority they are confident the measure will become law.

If it does, 900,000 Minnesotans who currently don’t get sick or safe time where they work would become eligible for the benefit.

Under the legislation, employees would earn one hour of sick and safe time for every 30 hours they work up to 48 hours annually. Part-time, seasonal and temporary workers are all be eligible, but workers wouldn’t be able to take earned time with them if they switch jobs.

“When we get sick workers should have the basic right to stay home for the sake of their own health and well-being or that of a child who may be ill or if they need support following an act of violence or trauma,” said Rep. Liz Olson, DFL-Duluth, the chief sponsor of the bill.

Business advocates have said mandating sick and safe time would be costly and cause compliance headaches. They argue it will take away important flexibility, especially for small business owners.

“Why are we making this a one-size fits all,” Rep. Jim Nash, R Waconia, asked while discussing a proposal to allow local governments to modify the requirements. His amendment and several other attempts by Republicans to modify the bill were voted down.

The state Department of Labor and Industry would have oversight of the program. The cities of St. Paul, Minneapolis, Bloomington and Duluth as well as 16 other states require employers to provide paid sick and safe time.

“Minnesotans are asking for this,” Olson said. “Minnesotans deserve this.”

Lauryn Schothorst, Minnesota Chamber of Commerce director of workplace management and workforce development, told a House committee in January the proposal would be bad for the state’s business climate.

“Increased costs further limit resources available for employee compensation, job growth, and expansion in Minnesota,”  Schothorst testified. “The chamber supports an approach that limits additional cost burdens and mandates on employers who are doing their best to keep their doors open and Minnesotans employed.”

Nancy Florence, a nurse from Plymouth, joined Rep. Olson Thursday before the House floor debate, to support the bill. She said sick and safe time was essential for public health and would “echo” through a community.

“None of us should worry about losing our job if we need a sick day,” Florence said. “My ability to take sick and safe time impacts the health of my loved ones and their financial well-being as well as my colleagues loved ones and their financial well-being.”

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