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Clarification to earned sick and safe time law could add air flight crews

Delta Airlines Capt. David Forbes testifies Feb. 22 before the House labor committee on HF3882. It would allow airline flight attendants and pilots to receive earned sick and safe time benefits. Rep. Liz Olson is the sponsor. (Photo by Michele Jokinen)
Delta Airlines Capt. David Forbes testifies Feb. 22 before the House labor committee on HF3882. It would allow airline flight attendants and pilots to receive earned sick and safe time benefits. Rep. Liz Olson is the sponsor. (Photo by Michele Jokinen)

Rep. Kaela Berg (DFL-Burnsville) is a flight attendant for Endeavor Air, and said the reason air flight crews should be added last year’s earned sick and safe time law is simple.

Safety.

“We can bring you a snack and potentially save your life at 35,000 feet,” she said.

But to effectively perform their duties she and her coworkers must take care of themselves. “Whether that means we’re sick or a family member needs critical care or if we need time to rectify not being safe at home,” she said.

A 2023 law guarantees most Minnesota employees, including temporary and part-time workers, earned sick and safe time from their employers. It did not include flight crews.

Sponsored by Rep. Liz Olson (DFL-Duluth), HF3882 would make several needed modifications and clarifications to last year’s law.

House Labor and Industry Finance and Policy Committee 2/22/24

The House Labor Industry Finance and Policy Committee approved the bill Thursday on a split-voice vote and sent it to the House Floor. It includes an amendment successfully offered by Berg to add flight crew eligibility.

Sick and safe time is paid leave employers must provide to employees who work more than 80 hours in a year in Minnesota. Time away can be used for certain reasons, including illness, to care for a sick family member, or to seek assistance if an employee or their family member has experienced domestic abuse, sexual assault or stalking.

It would be expanded, under the bill, to include attending a family member’s funeral or addressing legal or financial matters related to the death of a family member.

“We’ve heard stories across Minnesota about workers being moved to tears when they were able to take that first day of paid time off,” Olson said. “It’s what we had hoped for to make sure workers had access to the benefit is underway.”

Since the law’s creation, Olson said Department of Labor and Industry officials have met with employers and employees from across the state to gain feedback.

“Of course, in that process, [the department] has heard ways that we can improve it, that we can clarify, that we can make fixes, that we can continue to work with stakeholders to make sure that it’s as clear as possible so that it can be implemented so that workers can have these benefits,” Olson said.

Rep. Isaac Schultz (R-Elmdale Township), who unsuccessfully offered an amendment that would have included ineligibility for part-time employees and others, expressed concern the bill would negatively impact many Minnesota businesses.

Public sector employers, especially schools, have had a challenge implementing the new earned sick and safe time mandate, he said. “We are seeing less programming in our schools because of the heavy-handed, one size fits all, unfunded mandates of this bill.”

Among other largely technical modifications, the bill would:

  • add compliance enforcement to the Department of Labor and Industry;
  • authorize the Department of Labor and Industry to make rules for the purposes of carrying out the law’s provisions;
  • make an employer liable to each employee who does not receive or is not allowed to use earned time off, and sets damages; and
  • allow an employer to choose a reasonable system to report the use and availability of available hours available to employees.

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