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Quick and Easy Guide to Labor & Employment Law: Minnesota

This state-specific guide covers labor and employment case law, statutes, rules, and regulations that HR professionals and clients often encounter or have questions about in Minnesota.

At-Will Employment

Minnesota is an at-will employment state, meaning that employment for an indefinite term is presumed to be at-will. In an at-will employment relationship, unless there is an express or implied agreement stating otherwise, an employer or employee may terminate the employment relationship without cause. Skagerberg v. Blandin Paper Co., 197 Minn. 291 N.W. 872 (1936).

Minnesota recognizes that termination of an at-will employment relationship is unlawful when the motivation behind the termination is retaliating violates public policy. Minn. Stat. § 181.932 (2021).

Additionally, the Minnesota Human Rights Act protects individuals in protected classes (e.g., race, religion, disability, national origin, sex, marital status, familial status, age, sexual orientation and gender identity) from discrimination or retaliation related to employment. 

Right to Work Laws

In Minnesota, an employer may require an employee to join or maintain union membership or pay union fees pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement.

Immigration Verification

Minnesota places no additional employment verification procedures on employers beyond Federal I-9 compliance. E-Verify is required for vendor or subcontractor service contracts in excess value of $50,000 Minn. Stat. § 16C.075 (2021).

Drug Testing

Minnesota permits an employer to request or require a job applicant to undergo a drug or alcohol test as long as an offer of employment has been made. Minn. Stat. § 181.951 Subdiv. 2 (2021).

An employer may request an employee to take a drug or alcohol test as part of a routine physical exam so long as the drug and alcohol test is performed no more than once annually and the employee has been given two weeks written notice that a drug or alcohol test may be performed as part of the physical examination. Minn. Stat. § 181.951 Subdiv, 3 (2021).

An employer may request or require an employee to submit to drug tests on a random selection basis if they are employed in safety-sensitive positions. Minn. Stat. § 181.951 Subdiv. 4 (2021).

An employer may also request or require an employee to take a drug test if the employer has a reasonable suspicion that the employee is under the influence of drugs or alcohol or has violated the employer's policy on the prohibition of the use, sale, possession or transfer of drugs and alcohol while the employee is working or while the employee is on the employer's premises provided that the policy is contained in the employer's written drug and alcohol testing policy. Minn. Stat. § 181.951 Subdiv. 5 (2021).

Jury Duty Leave

It is unlawful for an employer to persuade or attempt to persuade any juror to avoid jury service; to intimidate or to threaten any juror in that respect; or to remove or otherwise subject an employee to adverse employment action as a result of jury service if the employee provides reasonable notice of his or her absence. Additionally, it is unlawful for an employer to require or request an employee to use annual, vacation or sick leave for time spent responding to a summons for jury duty. Minn. Stat. § 593.50 (2021). No Minnesota state law requires the employer to pay wages while an employee is on jury duty.

Voting Leave

On election days, employees have the right to be absent from work for the time necessary to place their vote and return to work without deduction in salary or wages. Minn. Stat. § 204C.04 (2021).

Parental Leave

To be eligible for parental leave, a full-time employee must have worked for the employer 12 months and work at least one-half equal to the hours required of a full-time position during the 12-month period preceding the leave. Minn. Stat. § 181.941 (2021).

Any employee adopting a child is eligible for adoptive parent leave. Minn. Stat. § 181.92 (2021).

Smoking Laws

Smoking is prohibited in all indoor spaces, including workplaces. www.health.state.mn.us/communities/environment/air/mciaa/faq.html.

Break Time to Express Milk

A Minnesota employer must provide reasonable break times each day to an employee who needs to express breast milk for her infant child during the 12 months following the birth of the child. The break times must, if possible, run concurrently with any break times already provided to the employee. An employer is not required to provide break times under this section if to do so would unduly disrupt the operations of the employer. An employer shall not reduce an employee's compensation for time used for the purpose of expressing milk.

The employer must make reasonable efforts to provide a room or other location, in close proximity to the work area, other than a bathroom or a toilet stall, that is shielded from view, is free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, and that includes access to an electrical outlet, where the employee can express milk in privacy. The employer would be held harmless if reasonable effort has been made. Minn. Stat. § 181.939 (2021).

Meal Breaks

Minnesota requires that employees working eight or more hours to be given at least 30 minutes for a meal break. The meal break may be unpaid if the employee is completely relieved of all job-related duties. Minn. Stat. § 177.254 (2021).

Minimum Wage

Effective January 1, 2021, Minnesota set minimum wage at not less than $10.08 an hour for large employers (those with annual gross revenues of at least $500,000) and $8.21 an hour for other small employers (those with annual gross revenue less than $500,000). www.dli.mn.gov/news/minimum-wage-rate-adjusted-inflation-jan-1-2021

Minneapolis and St. Paul have a higher minimum wage than the state of Minnesota.

Effective July 1, 2021, in Minneapolis, the minimum wage is set at $14.25 for employers of more than 100 employees and $12.50 for employers of 100 or fewer employees.

  • Minneapolis plans to increase the minimum wage beginning July 1, 2022. Effective July 1, 2022, for employers of more than 100 employees the minimum wage must be set at $15.00 per hour.
  • For employers of fewer than 100 employees, the minimum will increase to $13.50 beginning July 1, 2022. Beginning July 1, 2023, the minimum wage will increase to $14.50. Effective July 1, 2024, the minimum wage of $15 for large businesses applies.

http://minimumwage.minneapolismn.gov/.

In St. Paul, the minimum wage is set as follows:

  • $12.50 for macro businesses (more than 10,000 employees)
  • $12.50 for large businesses (101 to 10,000 employees)
  • $11.00 for small businesses (6 to 100 employees)
  • $10.00 for microbusinesses (5 or fewer employees)

Planned increases in the set minimum wage are as follows:

  • For macro businesses
    • $15.00 effective July 1, 2022
       
  • Large businesses
    • $13.50, effective July 1, 2022
    • $15.00, effective July 1, 2023
       
  • Small businesses
    • $12.00, effective July 1, 2022
    • $13.00, effective July 1, 2023
    • $14.00, effective July 1, 2024
    • $15.00, effective July 1, 2025
       
  • Micro businesses
    • $10.75, effective July 1, 2022
    • $11.50, effective July 1, 2023
    • $12.25, effective July 1, 2024
    • $13.25, effective July 1, 2025
    • $14.25, effective July 1, 2026
    • $15.00, effective July 1, 2027

www.stpaul.gov/departments/human-rights-equal-economic-opportunity/labor-standards-enforcement-and-education-0.

Tip credits are not permitted under Minn. Stat. § 177.24 (2021).

Overtime

Provisions governing overtime pay can be found at Minn. Stat. § 177.25 (2021). Generally, if an employee works more than 48 hours, he or she must be compensated at a rate of one and one-half times the regular rate of pay at which he or she is employed. This does not apply to agricultural employees.

Wage and Recordkeeping

Every employer subject to sections 177.41 to 122.44 or of any regulation issued under this subchapter shall make and keep for a period of not less than three years in or about the premises wherein any employee is employed a record of the name, address and occupation of each of his or her employees, the rate of pay, the amount paid each pay period to each employee and such other information as the Director of the Department of Labor shall prescribe by regulation, as necessary or appropriate for the enforcement of these sections or of the regulations under this section. Minn. Stat.  § 177.30 (2021).

Final Payments

The State of Minnesota requires an employer to issue a final paycheck within 24 hours of an involuntarily discharged employee's last day of employment. Minn. Stat. Ann. § 181.11. If an employee voluntarily resigns, a final paycheck must be issued on the next pay period that is more than five days after quitting. Minn. Stat. § 181.14 (2021).

Unemployment Insurance

Unemployment insurance benefits provide income to individuals who have lost work through no fault of their own. The benefits are intended to partially offset the loss of wages while an unemployed worker searches for suitable work or until an employer can recall the employee to work. Nothing is deducted from the employee's wages to pay for this coverage. Unemployment benefits are administered by the Department of Employment and Economic Development and additional information regarding the benefits may be accessed at www.uimn.org/.

Workers' Compensation

The Minnesota Workers' Compensation Law, Minn. Stat. § 176.021 (2021), applies to every employer in Minnesota. Employees who suffer injuries and/or occupational diseases arising out of and in the course of their employment may be eligible to receive several types of benefits under the Law. Under the Law, a workplace injury must be immediately reported to the employer; failing to timely report an injury may result in a denial of benefits.

The Law is administered by the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry, and additional information regarding the Law may be accessed at www.dli.mn.gov/business/workers-compensation-businesses. Finally, unlike some states, Minnesota does not recognize a private cause of action for retaliation under the Law.

Child Labor

Generally, 14 is the minimum age for employment under Minnesota state law. No minor under the age of 18 is permitted in a workplace with conditions declared hazardous by the U.S. Department of Labor. There are restrictions for places of work dealing with minors, as well as restrictions on the hours of the day the minor may work. The laws may be found at www.dli.mn.gov/business/employment-practices/child-labor-faqs.

Gun Laws

The Minnesota Citizens' Personal Protection Act permits public and private employers to prohibit guns in the workplace. Minn. Stat. § 624.714 Subdiv. 18 (2021).

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Guide last updated July 2021.

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