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Minnesota's Parental Leave Act expanded

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Minnesota provides family and medical leave protection to both public and private employees through its Parental Leave Act.  Minnesota’s Parental Leave Act is the state version of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, which provides up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to employees to care for the serious health condition of the employee, the employee’s spouse, child or parent.  The Minnesota legislature recently amended the Parental Leave Act expanding the coverage for employees.  The Act requires employers to allow employees to use their allotted sick-leave benefits to care for not only their sick children, but effective August 1, employers must also allow employees to use their sick leave for an illness of or injury to the employee’s adult children, spouse, sibling, parent, grandparent, or stepparent on the same terms upon which the employee is able to use sick leave benefits for employee’s own illness or injury.  The Act does not require an employer to provide employees with any sick leave, however. 

An employer may restrict an employee’s use of sick leave for the expanded family group to 160 hours in a 12-month period.  If an employer does limit the hours to 160 hours to the expanded family group, the employee can still use any remaining sick leave for himself or herself or the employee’s children.  The law applies only to employers with 21 or more employees.  In order to be covered, the employee must have worked for the employer for 12 consecutive months and must work at least at a 50% level of full-time employment.

The expanded sick leave is part of Minnesota’s broader Parental Leave Act.  The Parental Leave Act also provides that an employer must grant an unpaid leave of absence to an employee in conjunction with the birth or adoption of a child.  The leave may not exceed six weeks unless agreed to by the employer.  The Parental Leave Act also requires an employer to grant an employee leave up to a total of 16 hours during a 12-month period to attend school conferences or school-related activities related to the employee’s child.  An employee does not need to be employed for 12 months in order to receive this benefit.  An employee returning from a leave of absence under Minnesota’s Parental Leave Act, which includes all the leave provisions, must be paid at the same rate of pay the employee had been receiving when the leave commenced and the employee is entitled to retain all accrued pre-leave benefits of employment and seniority as if there had been no interruption in service. 

Employers should review their leave policies to assure that they are complying with Minnesota and federal leave acts.  For questions about the Parental Leave Act or other employment law matters, contact Denise Tataryn at 952-460-9243.