February 09, 2015

Proposed Legislation Would Expand Minnesota Family Leave Rights and Create Paid Family Leave Insurance Program

On February 5, 2015, legislation was introduced in the Minnesota House of Representatives that would expand the scope of Minnesota’s existing pregnancy and parenting leave laws. The bill seeks to extend family leave rights to all Minnesota employers and to provide leave rights to foster parents and employees who are away from work to care for a family member with a serious health condition. This legislation — House File 580 — would also establish a state insurance program that would pay benefits to employees who take pregnancy, parenting or caregiver leave.

Proposed Legislation Could Have Significant Impact on Minnesota Employers

If enacted into law, House File 580 would have a significant impact on all Minnesota employers. Minnesota would join the small minority of states (California, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Washington) that have established paid parenting or caregiver leave programs to provide some level of compensation to employees who take such leave. This proposed legislation would require all employers and all employees in Minnesota to pay premiums (based on the employee’s pay) to finance a state insurance program that would provide some level of financial compensation to employees who take pregnancy, parenting or caregiver leave.

The proposed legislation, if enacted into law in its present form, would impact small employers in particular. Currently, employers that employ less than 21 employees at any one site are not subject to Minnesota pregnancy and parenting leave laws (which were amended as part of the Women’s Economic Security Act (WESA) in 2014 to increase the required leave period from six to 12 weeks). The proposed legislation would expand the coverage of these laws to every Minnesota employer that employs one or more employees. In addition, the proposed legislation would make it easier for employees to qualify for such leave rights, and thereby make pregnancy and parenting leave (and the proposed foster parent and family caregiver leave) available to more employees.

The Proposed Legislation

Below is a summary of House File No. 580, as introduced on February 5, 2015:

  1. The bill would expand the rights provided by the existing pregnancy and parenting leave law to apply to foster parents and family caregivers.
  • This law presently requires that certain employers provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to a qualifying employee who is:
    • A biological or adoptive parent in conjunction with the birth or adoption of a child; or
    • A female employee for prenatal care or incapacity due to pregnancy, childbirth or related health conditions.
  • This law would be expanded to require employers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to an employee who is a foster parent in conjunction with the placement of a foster child.
  • This law would also be expanded to require employers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to an employee who is “caring for a family member who has a serious health condition.”
    • This new “caregiver leave” would be available to care for any “family member” of the employee, which would be defined as the “employee’s child, adult child, spouse, sibling, parent, mother-in-law, father-in-law, grandchild, grandparent or stepparent.”
    • “Serious health condition” would be defined by reference to the federal Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
  1. Like the sick and safe leave legislation that was introduced in the Minnesota Senate and House on February 2, 2015, House File 580 would also expand the coverage of the pregnancy and parenting leave law as well as other Minnesota laws addressing sick leave and accommodations for pregnant employees. 
  • Currently, these laws apply only to those employers with 21 or more employees at one worksite. The proposed legislation would make these laws applicable to all employers regardless of the number of employees.
  • In addition, the rights provided by these laws are currently available only to those employees who (1) have worked for the employer for at least 12 months preceding the request for pregnancy or parenting leave and (2) have worked an average number of hours per week equal to one-half the full-time equivalent position during the preceding 12 months. The proposed legislation would make these pregnancy and parenting leave rights (and the proposed foster parent and family caregiver leave rights) available to any employee who has either performed at least 680 hours of work for that employer or has worked for the employer for at least 17 weeks.
  1. The bill would establish a state-run insurance program that would provide some level of compensation to those employees who take leave for a pregnancy, childbirth, placement of a foster child or to care for a family member with a serious health condition. 
  • This insurance program would be funded by mandatory premiums paid by both the employee and their employer equal to 0.1 percent on the first $78,000 of wages paid to the employee during each calendar year.
  • This program would be administered by the Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI).
  • Beginning one year after DOLI begins collecting premiums, employees could apply to receive benefits from this state insurance program during the time they take leave from their employment pursuant to the pregnancy and parenting leave law (and as amended to apply to foster parents and family caregivers).
  • The amount of benefits paid to the employee by the insurance program would be calculated based on, among other things, the employee’s weekly wage. However, the weekly benefit paid to the employee would not exceed $1,000 per week.
  • Benefits would not be payable for less than one day of leave taken in one work week.
  • Employees would be eligible to receive benefits bi-weekly while on a leave of absence for up to six weeks.
  1. The bill would authorize DOLI to make grants to community organizations for the purpose of outreach to and education for employees regarding their rights under Minnesota leave laws.

Status of Proposed Legislation

House File 580 has been referred to the House’s Committee on Commerce and Regulatory Reform. To date, a hearing on the bill has not been scheduled and a companion Senate bill has not been introduced. 

We will monitor this bill closely and provide further information as the circumstances warrant.

If you would like more information about the potential effect of this legislation, please contact a member of Faegre Baker Daniels’ labor and employment practice.

For further information about this and other developments at the Minnesota legislature, please contact a member of Faegre Baker Daniels’ governmental relations practice.

 

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