Labor and Employment Law Overview: Minnesota
Federal law and guidance on this subject should be reviewed together with this section.
- Under Minnesota law, employers are prohibited from taking certain actions with regard to genetic testing and/or genetic information. See Preemployment Screening and Testing.
- State law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of a variety of factors. See Unlawful Discrimination.
- The minimum wage rate that Minnesota employers are required to pay depends on the size of the employer. See Employee Compensation.
- The state threshold for overtime pay differs from the federal threshold. See Employee Compensation.
- State law regulates when wage deductions may be made from employee pay. See Employee Compensation.
- Under certain circumstances, Minnesota employers must provide breaks for employees. See Hours Worked: Meal and Rest Periods.
- Under certain circumstances, group health care plans must offer continuation of health benefits to eligible employees. See Termination of Employment.
Interplay Between State and Federal Law
Employers are responsible for complying with both state and federal executive orders, statutes, regulations and other legal requirements. Often, state and federal legal requirements will address the same subject matter and impose varying compliance obligations on the employer. For instance, federal law may impose a higher minimum wage rate than state law. Alternatively, state law may require employers to retain certain records for a longer time period than federal law. Unfortunately, employers cannot select which law they want to comply with. Instead, employers that are covered by both state and federal law must comply with both. As a general rule of thumb, complying with the law that offers the greatest possible rights or benefits to the employee will ensure the employer meets its compliance obligations.
Key Minnesota Employment Laws
Minnesota has key employment laws affecting the employer-employee relationship. Below, HR professionals will find a summary of certain laws they are most likely to encounter.
Preemployment Screening and Testing
Drug and Alcohol Testing
The Minnesota Drug and Alcohol Testing in the Workplace Act (DATWA) governs employment-related drug and alcohol testing. Minn. Stat. §§ 181.950-181.957. Among its requirements, the DATWA requires that, prior to testing, employers implement a written drug and alcohol testing policy. Minn. Stat. § 181.952. The policy must include the following:
- Who will be subject to testing;
- Circumstances under which an individual may be subject to testing;
- Whether individuals may refuse to submit to testing;
- Consequences of refusing to submit testing;
- Consequences of a confirmed positive test result;
- Individual's right to explain a confirmed positive test result; and
- Appeal procedures.
Employers who have a testing policy meeting those requirements may test under the following circumstances:
- Job applicant testing;
- Routine physical examination testing;
- Random testing for safety sensitive positions;
- Reasonable suspicion testing; and
- Treatment program testing.
See Minn. Stat. § 181.951.
However, job applicants should be tested only for controlled substances, but not for alcohol because Minnesota law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based upon their consumption of lawful products (e.g., alcohol). Only employees who the employer has a reasonable suspicion are under the influence of alcohol during working hours should be asked to submit to alcohol testing.
Employers are not allowed to take any of the following actions with regard to genetic testing and/or genetic information:
- Directly or indirectly administer a genetic test or request, require or collect protected genetic information regarding a person as a condition of employment; or
- Affect the terms or conditions of employment of any person based on protected genetic information.
The Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA) establishes protected classes not recognized under federal antidiscrimination laws. Specifically, the MHRA prohibits discrimination on the basis of the following characteristics:
- National origin;
- Sexual orientation;
- Marital status;
- Status with regard to public assistance; or
- Local human rights commission activity (i.e., membership or activity in a local commission).
The MHRA applies to employers with one or more employees in Minnesota, the state and the state's political subdivisions. For more information, see Employee Management > EEO-Discrimination: Minnesota.
Leaves of Absence
Employers who grant paternity or maternity leave to biological parents must, upon request, extend the same leave to adoptive parents. The leave can be paid or unpaid. For more information, see Employee Leaves > Other Leaves: Minnesota.
Bone Marrow Leave
Employers with 20 or more employees must grant up to 40 work hours or paid leave to employees to donate bone marrow. For more information, see Employee Leaves > Other Leaves: Minnesota.
Employees who are elected to public office may take time off to attend meetings required by their office. Employer are not required to pay employees for this time off. For more information, see Employee Leaves > Other Leaves: Minnesota.
Military Family Leave
Employers must grant up to ten days paid leave to an employee who has an immediate family member that is a member of the United States armed forces and has been injured or killed during active service. For more information, see Employee Leaves > FMLA: Minnesota.
Parenting Leave; Sick or Injured Child Care Leave
Minnesota requires employers with 21 or more employees to allow employees to do the following:
- Take up to six weeks unpaid leave for the birth or adoption of their child; and
- Use accrued sick leave to attend to their sick or injured children.
For more information, see Employee Leaves > Other Leaves: Minnesota.
Minnesota employers must allow certain employees who are either quarantined or isolated due to illness to take a leave of absence for up to 21 consecutive work days. For the purpose of determining an employee's right to unemployment compensation, absences longer than 21 days will be construed as a loss of employment due to a serious health condition. For more information, see Employee Leaves > Other Leaves: Minnesota.
School Conference and Activities Leave
All employers must allow parents to take up to 16 unpaid hours per year to attend school-related activities or visit early childhood programs that their children attend. Employees may use vacation time for this purpose. For more information, seeEmployee Leaves > Other Leaves: Minnesota.
On election day, certain employees may take time off to vote without loss of pay. For more information, see Employee Leaves > Other Leaves: Minnesota.
Minnesota law allows employers to offer the option of payroll cards to their employees, as long as employees have the right to collect wages in an alternative form, such as the following:
- Check; or
- Direct deposit.
For more information, see Payroll > Payment of Wages: Minnesota.
The state of Minnesota has two minimum wage rates depending on the size of the employer:
- Large employers, defined as enterprises whose annual gross volume of sales made or business done is not less than $625,000, must pay a minimum wage rate of $9.50 per hour; and
- Small employers must pay a minimum wage rate of $7.75 per hour.
A training wage of $7.75 per hour may be paid to new employees under the age of 20 during the first consecutive 90 days of employment.
The employer is required to pay for all hours worked, including the following:
- Waiting time;
- Call time;
- Training time; and
- Any other time the employee is restricted to the premises of the employer.
For more information, see Employee Compensation > Minimum Wage: Minnesota.
State law requires that hours worked in excess of 48 hours in a seven-day workweek must be paid at one-and-one-half times the regular rate of pay for the purpose of overtime calculation. The state or its political subdivisions may offer time off at one-and-one-half times the employee's regular rate of pay instead of offering monetary compensation. There are exceptions for certain classes of workers (i.e., health care professionals, car salespeople, etc.).
Some Minnesota employers may be subject to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act that requires overtime after 40 hours in a seven-day workweek.
No employer or employee may enter into an agreement that would violate the overtime law requiring an employee to be paid overtime. For more information, see Employee Compensation > Overtime.
Although some exceptions apply, Minnesota employers generally may not deduct from an employee's wages for the following:
- Cash shortages;
- Tools; or
For more information, see Payroll > Involuntary and Voluntary Pay Deductions: Minnesota
State law also requires the following:
- Any deductions from the employee's paycheck must be authorized in writing by the employee.
- Each time an employee is paid, the employee must receive a statement listing all deductions, such as taxes, from the employee's earnings.
For more information, see Payroll > Payment of Wages: Minnesota.
Hours Worked: Meal and Rest Periods
Rest breaks are not required under Minnesota law. However, employees must be allowed time to use the nearest restroom once every four consecutive hours worked. For more information, see Employee Compensation > Hours Worked: Minnesota.
If an employee works eight or more consecutive hours, the employee must be allowed sufficient time to eat a meal. For more information, see Employee Compensation > Hours Worked: Minnesota.
Break for the Purpose of Expressing Breast Milk
A nursing mother must be provided reasonable unpaid break time to express breast milk for her child. Breaks already provided may fulfill this requirement. The employer also must make reasonable efforts to provide a private area for this purpose, other than a toilet stall. For more information, see Employee Compensation > Hours Worked: Minnesota .
Termination of Employment
For a discharged employee, wages are due within 24 hours of the employee's demand. For voluntary terminations, wages are due by the next payday, as long as the payday is within 20 days of the last day worked. For more information, see Payroll > Payment of Wages: Minnesota.
Notifying Employee of Reason for Termination
If a terminated employee submits a written request within 15 days of termination, the employer must inform the employee about the truthful reason for termination - within 10 working days of the request. For more information, see Organizational Exit > Involuntary Terminations: Minnesota.
Health Care Continuation (Mini-COBRA)
In Minnesota, employees working for employers with two - 19 employees may qualify for up to eighteen months of continued health insurance coverage. For more information, see Employee Benefits > Health Care Continuation (COBRA): Minnesota.
Many employers are afraid that providing references will lead to current or former employees filing a defamation or other private lawsuit against the employer. Minnesota has addressed that concern by enacting a reference immunity statute. Under the statute, employers may provide references to current and former employees' prospective employers, upon the current and former employees' request.
The statute allow employers to provide the following truthful information:
- Public personnel information (current or former employee's consent not required);
- Written employee evaluations (must contain the employee's written response, if any); and
- Reasons for separation.
Employers who provide this information are immune from liability in a private lawsuit, unless the former/current employee can demonstrate, by clear and convincing evidence, that the employer provided the information knowing it was false, with malicious intent or without taking reasonable steps to ensure the information was correct.
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