Minnesota wasted no time before revisiting its Earned Sick and Safe Time law which originally took effect January 1, 2024. In late May, Governor Walz signed into law the legislature’s amendments to the state’s earned sick and safe (ESST) requirements. While many of the changes appear to be intended to resolve practical ambiguity uncovered over the course of the past few months, others present more material changes to the state’s policy. All but one of the changes are effective immediately and will force employers to quickly revisit their policies to ensure continued compliance.

Here are the eight key changes employers need to know about:

  1. Employer’s Recordkeeping Responsibility

Employers must provide each employee with both: (1) the employee’s current amount of earned ESST hours available; and (2) the total number of ESST hours used during a given pay period. However, the manner in which employers maintain and provide these records was granted more flexibility.

Rather than mandating that employers provide this information on an employee’s earnings statement, employers are now permitted to select a “reasonable system” for providing its employees with this information, such as on an employee’s earning statement, a listing of the amount of ESST/PTO used and available, or through an online payroll platform accessible to the employees on an employer-owned computer during work hours. These records must be kept for three years and must be kept in a manner accessible upon 72-hour notice.

  1. Changes to ESST Usage Increments

Initially, the law had required ESST be used “in the smallest increment of time tracked by the employer’s payroll system” so long as that increment is not more than four hours. Given that many employers track hours by one minute-increments, this approach was rather impractical.

The amendment clarifies that an employer is not required to provide leave in increments smaller than 15-minutes. The law now requires employers to permit employees to use ESST in the same increment for which the employee is paid unless that increment is more than 4 hours or less than 15 minutes.

If an employee is paid in increments greater than 4 hours, ESST usage must be permitted in at least 4-hour increments.  If an employee is paid in increments smaller than 15 minutes, an employer can mandate ESST usage be taken in 15-minute increments.

  1. Expanded Use: Bereavement

Minnesota opted to expand the number of permitted uses of ESST.

Employees are now allowed to use ESST to arrange or attend a family member’s funeral or memorial. Similarly, employees are permitted to use ESST to address financial or legal matters resulting from the death of a family member.

  1. More Generous Policies

Employers that provide more generous paid leave policies that are used to satisfy its ESST obligations will soon be required to comply with ESST requirements for all paid leave. Unlike the amendments above, this change does not take effect immediately; instead, this change is takes effect on January 1, 2025.

As of next year, if an employer’s more generous PTO policy is used to satisfy its ESST obligations, all hours of paid leave will be subject to the employer’s recordkeeping responsibilities, limitations on the employer’s ability to demand documentation in support of an employee’s use of leave, usage increment requirements, and any other rules that the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry may implement.

  1. Payout Rate

Employees must now receive paid leave at the same “base rate” as the employee earns from employment. “Base rate” means, for employees paid on an hourly basis, the same rate received per hour of work. This application of a base rate applies differently to those on different pay arrangements:

  • Employees with multiple hourly rates must receive paid leave at the rate which would have been paid for the time during which leave was taken.
  • Salaried employees must receive the same rate the employee would have been paid if the employee had not taken leave.
  • Previously unaddressed by the statute, employees paid solely on commission, piecework, or any other basis aside from salary or hourly, must receive no less than the greater of the applicable local, federal, or state minimum wage.

Thus, an employee’s commissions, overtime, bonuses, gratuity, and premium rates for certain days of the week or holidays are excluded from the calculation of the employee’s “base rate.”

  1. Supportive Documentation Requirements

In the event documentation cannot be obtained by the employee without expense or within a reasonable time to support an employee’s use of ESST for absences related to domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking of the employee or the employee’s family, “reasonable documentation” may be submitted to justify the employee’s use of ESST. “Reasonable documentation” may include a written statement by the employee.

  1. Definition of Employee

Originally, an employee was defined as a person who performs at least 80 hours of work in a particular year for Minnesota employer. Now, an employee is defined as a person who is anticipated to perform at least 80 hours of work in the given year. The key distinction here is that employees no longer need to actually perform 80 hours of work before becoming eligible for ESST.

  1. Employer Liability and Penalties

Minnesota decided to be less forgiving of employer noncompliance and impose double damage penalties.

Employers that fail to provide or permit the use of ESST may now be held civilly liable to employees for twice the amount the paid leave that should have been provided. Likewise, Employers that fail to “possess sufficient records to determine the amount of [ESST] an employee should have been provided” will be subject to liability for twice the amount “equal to 48 hours of [ESST] for each year [ESST] was not provided.”


Despite the legislature’s attempt to bring clarity to Minnesota’s ESST laws, many of the provisions remain ambiguous. Now that the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry has been given authority to implement ESST regulations, it is possible that regulations designed to resolve remaining ambiguity are forthcoming.

For now, it may be necessary for employers make immediate changes to company policy to ensure continued compliance, and to avoid steep penalties, following these amendments. Specifically, employers should:

  1. Consult their payroll providers to ensure that accurate ESST records are maintained and are accessible to employees.
  2. Consider eliminating separate bereavement leave policies now that such use is eligible for ESST.
  3. If a more generous PTO, vacation or other paid time off policy is offered in addition to ESST, such additional PTO/vacation policy must comply with the notice, documentation and other provisions of ESST.  Employers who do not want to incorporate all of the ESST requirements into their PTO/vacation policy, consider implementing separate PTO/vacation and ESST policies to avoid having to treat an employee’s entire PTO balance as ESST. To preserve the separation between PTO and ESST policies, the PTO/vacation policy must expressly exclude use for personal illness or injury.

It is important for employers to stay on alert for potential regulations on this topic now that the Department of Labor and Industry has been given rulemaking authority.