Labor and Employment Law Overview: Minnesota

Labor and Employment Law Overview requirements for other states

Federal law and guidance on this subject should be reviewed together with this section.

Author: XpertHR Editorial Team

Summary

  • Minnesota law prohibits an employer from discriminating and retaliating against employees in a variety of protected classes. Employers must also provide pregnancy accommodations, protect whistleblowers and allow employees to access their personnel files and to discuss their wages. See EEO, Diversity and Employee Relations.
  • Minnesota permits preemployment background checks and drug and alcohol testing. Minnesota has passed a "ban the box" law. See Recruiting and Hiring.
  • In Minnesota, there are requirements relating to the minimum wage, overtime, rest and meal breaks, breastfeeding breaks and child labor. See Wage and Hour.
  • Minnesota has laws that relate to employee pay and benefits, including health care continuation, payment of wages, pay frequency, pay statements and wage deductions. See Pay and Benefits.
  • Under Minnesota law, employees are entitled to certain leaves or time off, including pregnancy and parenting leave, school activities leave, quarantine leave, bone marrow donation leave and domestic abuse leave. See Time Off and Leaves of Absence.
  • Minnesota prohibits smoking in the workplace, texting while driving and weapons in the workplace, but permits weapons in parking lots. See Health and Safety.
  • When employment ends, Minnesota employers must comply with applicable final pay and job reference requirements. See Organizational Exit.

Introduction to Employment Law in Minnesota

Minnesota has laws that provide greater protections to employees than federal law, including pregnancy accommodation rights, a higher minimum wage, health care continuation coverage obligations for smaller employers and bone marrow donation leave, but generally follows federal law with respect to topics such as occupational safety and consumer reports.

Select Minnesota employment requirements are summarized below to help an employer understand the range of employment laws affecting the employer-employee relationship in the state. An employer must comply with both federal and state law.

An employer must also comply with applicable municipal law obligations affecting the employment relationship, in addition to complying with state and federal requirements.

EEO, Diversity and Employee Relations

Key Minnesota requirements impacting EEO, diversity and employee relations are:

Fair Employment Practices

The Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA) prohibits discrimination on the basis of protected characteristics, such as:

  • Race;
  • Color;
  • Creed;
  • Religion;
  • National origin;
  • Sex (including pregnancy, childbirth and related disabilities);
  • Marital status;
  • Status with regard to public assistance;
  • Membership or activity in a local commission;
  • Disability;
  • Sexual orientation;
  • Age (18 and older); and
  • Familial status.

The MHRA also protects employees from harassment and retaliation.

The MHRA applies to an employer in Minnesota with one or more employees.

Equal Pay

The Equal Pay for Equal Work Law prohibits an employer from discriminating between employees on the basis of sex by paying unequal wages for equal work on jobs that require equal skill, effort and responsibility and that are performed under similar working conditions. A pay differential may be allowed if such payment is made according to a:

  • Seniority system;
  • Merit system;
  • System that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production; or
  • Differential based on any other factor besides sex.

Discussion of Wages

Minnesota prohibits an employer from:

  • Requiring nondisclosure by an employee of his or her wages as a condition of employment;
  • Requiring an employee to sign a waiver or other document that denies the employee the right to disclose his or her wages; or
  • Taking any adverse employment action against an employee for disclosing his or her own wages or discussing another employee's wages that have been disclosed voluntarily.

Pregnancy Accommodation

The Women's Economic Security Act requires an employer with 21 or more employees at one work site to provide reasonable accommodations to an employee for health conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth, such as:

  • A temporary transfer to a less-strenuous or less-hazardous position;
  • Seating;
  • More frequent restroom, food or water breaks; and
  • Limits on lifting.

An employee is required to obtain the advice of her licensed health care provider or certified doula under certain circumstances.

Access to Personnel Files

An employer with 20 or more employees must provide current employees with access to their personnel records upon written request. Current employees are entitled to review their personnel records once every six months, while former employees may review or obtain a free copy of their personnel file once per year. An employer must respond to a request within seven days (14 days if the records are located out of state).

Whistleblower Protections

The Minnesota Whistleblower Act prohibits an employer in Minnesota from retaliating against an employee who, in good faith:

  • Reports an actual, suspected or planned violation of federal, state or common law;
  • Is asked to participate in a public investigation or hearing; or
  • Informs the employer that he or she is refusing to obey an order because he or she reasonably believes it is unlawful.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on EEO, diversity and employee relations practices in Minnesota can be found in the Minnesota Employee Handbook Table of Contents, Disabilities (ADA): Minnesota, EEO - Discrimination: Minnesota, EEO - Harassment: Minnesota, EEO - Retaliation: Minnesota, HR Management: Minnesota, Employee Discipline: Minnesota, Minnesota Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Minnesota? Federal requirements can be found in Disabilities (ADA): Federal, EEO - Discrimination: Federal, EEO - Harassment: Federal, EEO - Retaliation: Federal, HR Management: Federal and Employee Discipline: Federal.

Recruiting and Hiring

Key Minnesota requirements impacting recruiting and hiring are:

Consumer Reports

The Minnesota Access to Consumer Reports Act (MACRA) is similar to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). One difference is that Minnesota requires an employer to include an authorization request with its employment application form when an application is used. In addition, the MACRA requires that the authorization form have a checkbox for the individual to check if he or she wants a copy of the background report.

Ban the Box

Minnesota prohibits private employers from asking prospective employees about their criminal histories on a job application. However, an employer may still make criminal history inquiries either during a job interview or after a conditional offer has been made. Limited exemptions apply.

Drug Testing

Minnesota's Drug and Alcohol Testing in the Workplace Act (DATWA) restricts preemployment drug and alcohol testing. Among its provisions, the DATWA requires that, prior to testing, an employer implement a written drug and alcohol testing policy that includes specific information, such as who is subject to testing, the right to refuse to be tested and the consequences of refusing to be tested.

To lawfully test a job applicant, an employer must:

  • Make a conditional job offer;
  • Require the same test of all similar applicants with conditional offers;
  • Confirm a positive test result before withdrawing a conditional job offer; and
  • Inform the applicant if a job offer is withdrawn based on a positive test result.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on recruiting and hiring practices in Minnesota can be found in Preemployment Screening and Testing: Minnesota and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Minnesota? Federal requirements can be found in Preemployment Screening and Testing: Federal.

Wage and Hour

Key Minnesota requirements impacting wages and hours are:

Minimum Wage

The State of Minnesota has two minimum wage rates depending on the size of the employer:

  • Large employers, currently defined as those covered by the Minnesota Fair Labor Standards Act and having an annual gross volume of sales made or business done of at least $500,000, must pay a minimum wage rate of $9.65 per hour; and
  • Small employers must pay a minimum wage rate of $7.87 per hour.

A training wage of $7.87 per hour may be paid to employees under 18 years of age and during the first 90 days of employment to employees under 20 years of age.

Overtime

A Minnesota employer must pay overtime for all hours worked in excess of 48 hours per week. Several types of employees are exempt from Minnesota's overtime requirements, including, but not limited to, certain:

  • Unionized employees;
  • Retail or service employees paid on a commission basis;
  • Salespersons, parts persons or mechanics employed by a motor vehicle dealership;
  • Airline employees;
  • Companionship service providers who stay overnight in the home of an aged or infirm individual; and
  • Workers who are not considered employees.

Rest and Meal Breaks

Employees who work eight hours or more must have sufficient time to eat a meal (usually 30 minutes or more). Additionally, employees must be allowed adequate time to use the nearest restroom once every four consecutive hours worked.

Breastfeeding Breaks

An employer must provide reasonable unpaid break time each day to an employee who needs to express breast milk for her infant child. The break time must, if possible, run concurrently with any break time already provided to the employee. An employer also must make reasonable efforts to provide a private room for this purpose, other than a bathroom or toilet stall.

Child Labor

Child labor laws in Minnesota restrict the occupations in which minors may be employed and the number of hours and times during which they may work.

All minors are prohibited from working in hazardous occupations, and minors under the age of 16 are prohibited from working in a variety of other occupations such as those involving the operation of machinery, work in processing plants and transportation. Minors may work in prohibited occupations under certain circumstances, such as working for a parent-owned company or being trained in an approved apprenticeship program.

Minors who are 16 or 17 years old and a high school student are not permitted to work:

  • After 11:00 p.m. (11:30 p.m. with written permission from a parent or guardian) on an evening before a school day; and
  • Before 5:00 a.m. (4:30 a.m. with written permission from a parent or guardian) on a school day.

Minors under the age of 16 are not permitted to work:

  • Before 7:00 a.m.;
  • After 9:00 p.m.;
  • More than 40 hours per week;
  • More than eight hours in any 24-hour period; and

During school hours on school days without an employment certificate issued by the appropriate school district.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on wage and hour practices in Minnesota can be found in the Minnesota Employee Handbook Table of Contents, Minimum Wage: Minnesota, Overtime: Minnesota, Hours Worked: Minnesota, Child Labor: Minnesota, Minnesota Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Minnesota? Federal requirements can be found in Minimum Wage: Federal, Overtime: Federal, Hours Worked: Federal and Child Labor: Federal.

Pay and Benefits

Key Minnesota requirements impacting pay and benefits are:

Health Care Continuation

In Minnesota, employees working for employers with two or more employees may qualify for continued health insurance coverage. Minnesota health care continuation requirements follow the federal Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) with regard to the qualifying events that create eligibility for continuation coverage.

Under certain circumstances, the maximum length of continuation coverage in Minnesota is longer than under COBRA.

Payment of Wages

A Minnesota employer may pay wages in cash, or with checks that are convertible into cash at full face value. Nonnegotiable instruments are not permitted.

An employer may also pay wages by direct deposit or electronic paycards as long as certain conditions are satisfied.

Pay Frequency

Most Minnesota employers must pay employees at least once every 31 days on a regular payday designated in advance. Exceptions apply for employers of individuals working on projects of a transitory nature, public service corporations and migrant workers.

Pay Statements

At the end of each pay period, an employer must provide each employee with a written or electronic pay statement that includes the following information:

  • Employee's name;
  • Hourly rate of pay, if applicable;
  • Total number of hours worked, unless the employee is exempt from the minimum wage;
  • Gross pay earned during the pay period;
  • Deductions made from the employee's pay;
  • Net pay after all deductions are made;
  • Date the pay period ends; and
  • Employer's legal name and operating name, if different.

Wage Deductions

A Minnesota employer may make deductions from employees' wages that are required by federal or state law or that are  expressly authorized in writing by the employee for the purpose of paying specific items, such as union dues or group accident and health insurance.

An employer may also make deductions for uniforms, equipment and other items necessary for employment, as long as the employee's wage rate does not fall below the minimum wage in effect.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on pay and benefits practices in Minnesota can be found in Health Care Continuation (COBRA): Minnesota, Payment of Wages: Minnesota and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Minnesota? Federal requirements can be found in Health Care Continuation (COBRA): Federal and Payment of Wages: Federal.

Time Off and Leaves of Absence

Key Minnesota requirements impacting time off and leaves of absence are:

Family and Medical Leave

Under Minnesota's Pregnancy and Parenting Leave Act, an employer with at least 21 employees at one site must provide eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for:

  • The birth or adoption of a child;
  • Prenatal care; and
  • Incapacity due to pregnancy, childbirth or related health conditions.

In addition, the Sick Leave Benefits; Care of Relatives Act requires an employer with 21 or more employees to allow eligible employees to use personal sick leave benefits for absences due to the illness or injury of the employee's relatives on the same terms as the employee is permitted to use the sick leave benefits for his or her own illness or injury. An employee may also use sick leave benefits for purposes related to sexual assault, domestic abuse or stalking.

Other Time Off Requirements Affecting Minnesota Employers

In addition to the Pregnancy and Parenting Leave Act and Sick Leave Benefits; Care of Relatives Act, a Minnesota employer is also required to comply with other leave and time off laws, such as:

  • School conferences and activities leave;
  • Quarantine leave;
  • Bone marrow donation leave (covering employers with 20 or more employees at one site);
  • Voting leave;
  • Election official leave;
  • Legislative leave;
  • Jury duty leave;
  • Crime victim or witness leave;
  • Domestic abuse leave;
  • Military leave;
  • Civil Air Patrol leave (covering employers with 20 or more employees at one site); and
  • Family military leave.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on time off and leave of absence practices in Minnesota can be found in the Minnesota Employee Handbook Table of Contents, FMLA: Minnesota, Other Leaves: Minnesota, USERRA: Minnesota, Jury Duty: Minnesota and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Minnesota? Federal requirements can be found in FMLA: Federal, Other Leaves: Federal, USERRA: Federal and Jury Duty: Federal.

Health and Safety

Key Minnesota requirements impacting health and safety are:

Smoke-Free Workplace

The Minnesota Clean Indoor Air Act bans smoking in all places of employment. No-smoking signs should be posted, and all smoking paraphernalia, such as ashtrays, should be removed. The law does not require an employer to create designated smoking areas or provide other accommodations for smokers.

Weapons in the Workplace

An employer may prohibit the possession of guns and weapons by employees while performing regular job duties. However, an employer may not prohibit the lawful carry or possession of a firearm in a parking facility or parking area.

Safe Driving Practices

Minnesota bans texting while driving for all drivers.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on health and safety practices in Minnesota can be found in the Minnesota Employee Handbook Table of Contents, HR and Workplace Safety: Minnesota, Employee Health: Minnesota, Workplace Security: Minnesota, Minnesota Workplace Labor and Employment Law Posters and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Minnesota? Federal requirements can be found in HR and Workplace Safety (OSHA Compliance): Federal, Employee Health: Federal and Workplace Security: Federal.

Organizational Exit

Key Minnesota requirements impacting organizational exit are:

Final Pay

For an involuntarily terminated employee, wages are due within 24 hours of the employee's demand for payment. An employee who voluntarily resigns must be paid by the next regularly scheduled payday, as long as the payday is within 20 days of the last day worked. Exceptions apply.

References

Minnesota law provides qualified immunity to employers responding to a reference request in good faith. An employer may disclose information such as:

  • Dates of employment;
  • Compensation history;
  • Job description;
  • Training provided by the employer; and
  • Written information regarding acts of violence, theft, harassment or illegal conduct that resulted in disciplinary action or resignation, and the employee's written response.

Additionally, with the employee's written consent, an employer may provide records relating to performance evaluations, disciplinary warnings and reasons for separation from employment.

Be aware that where there is overlap between federal, state and/or local law, complying with the law that offers the greatest rights or benefits to the employee will generally apply.

Additional information on organizational exit practices in Minnesota can be found in Payment of Wages: Minnesota, Employee Communications: Minnesota and Does This Law Apply to My Organization in Minnesota? Federal requirements can be found in Payment of Wages: Federal and Employee Communications: Federal.