What’s next for sick pay, overtime, wages?
A cluster of employment issues are percolating across the country: The expansion of mandatory overtime pay is in legal limbo, paid sick days are under the microscope, and workers are marching for a $15 minimum wage. In Duluth, only sick time is g...
A cluster of employment issues are percolating across the country: The expansion of mandatory overtime pay is in legal limbo, paid sick days are under the microscope, and workers are marching for a $15 minimum wage.
In Duluth, only sick time is getting major policy attention, for now. But all of these fights aren’t just broad, national issues - they affect thousands of Northland employees and hundreds of businesses.
Here’s a look at where things stand.
After Minneapolis passed a requirement that almost all businesses provide paid sick time in May and St. Paul later followed suit, Duluth appointed a task force to study the issue.
“The ultimate goal is presenting multiple options to the City Council and city administration,” Council President Zack Filipovich said after the group of 11 community members met for the third time last week.
The biweekly public meetings will run through next year as research is gathered about what other cities have done and what might work here in terms of earned sick and safe time. While no concrete proposals have taken shape, Filipovich said there likely will be some sort of recommendation other than the status quo.
“I have a feeling there’s going to be some sort of policy, but it’s really hard to say what that’s going to look like - this is in the very early stages,” he said.
A recent study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research shows 46 percent of the city’s workers, or 19,500 people, don’t have access to paid sick time.
Many of those jobs that don’t offer sick pay are in hospitality and foodservice - a growing sector in an increasingly tourist-driven Duluth economy - and local advocates like Ashley Compton of Take Action Minnesota call expanding sick pay “common sense.”
Opponents of sick time requirements in other cities cast local efforts as a burdensome and patchwork regulation that “would adversely impact businesses throughout the state,” according to the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce.
The Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce has been engaged in the council’s and task force’s efforts but hasn’t taken a stance for or against sick time policy.
“I anticipate having a chamber forum, in the near future, dedicated to having this potential presented to our members,” Chamber CEO David Ross wrote in an email. “We have identified within our 2017 key initiatives, ‘Ensure the voice of business is heard within the Duluth City Council’s evaluation of a proposed mandatory earned sick and safe time ordinance.’ ”
Two members of the business community, Chad Ronchetti and Brenda Denton, sit on the 11-person task force. They are joined by two members of the public, a representative each from labor, hospitality, health care, human resources and economic development as well as a domestic violence or sexual assault professional and a member of an organization assisting working families.
The public will have a chance to weigh in on Duluth’s potential policy at the task force meetings, which meet the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month. Learn more about that group at duluthmn.gov/boards-commissions/earned-sick-and-safe-time-task-force .
Nearly 80,000 more Minnesotans were set to receive federal overtime protections Dec. 1, but a judge in Texas stopped that from taking effect just before Thanksgiving.
Business groups cheered; employee advocates were furious; the federal Department of Labor on Thursday appealed the injunction.
The new rule would have extended mandatory time-and-a-half overtime pay to 4 million more workers by doubling the salary cap of those eligible to $47,476.
With that rule paused, and no way of knowing what the Trump administration will do with the regulation, workers and businesses will just have to wait for any potential changes.
Meanwhile, Minnesota has its own overtime law that mandates nearly all employers pay time and a half for more than 48 hours of work.
While the state has no data on how many people are covered by its law, state Department of Labor and Industry spokesman James Honerman said the federal law kicks in the majority of the time.
“Employers covered by our law and not the federal would include small businesses (grossing less than $500,000/year) who do not have employees working in interstate commerce (rare), and agricultural workers who are paid hourly,” Honerman wrote in an email.
Employers and employees can learn more about overtime requirements at dol.gov/featured/overtime and dli.mn.gov/ls/Overtime.asp .
Duluth hasn’t seen the heavy push for a higher local minimum wage that has become prevalent in much larger cities. Yet it also hasn’t seen wages rising organically at the same rate as the national average.
While wages could get squeezed higher due to a tightening labor market, the median wage for many of the area’s occupations remains below $15, according to state data.
The state minimum wage changed on Aug. 1 this year to $9.50 for employers with more than $500,000 in annual gross revenue; nearly every other employee, including those who earn tips, must receive $7.75 an hour. (Workers who can earn less than $7.75 include executives, baby sitters and some in the transportation industry.)
Starting Jan. 1, 2018, the minimum wage will rise an amount tied to inflation, which has been around 2 percent in the past decade.
The annual increase is capped at 2.5 percent, meaning it would take until at least 2028 for the lowest minimum wage to pass $10 an hour.
State minimum wage info can be found at dli.mn.gov/LS/minwage.asp.