Cannabis Legalized and Other Employment Law Changes

by Sam Richie & Shannon K. Mitchell, AASP-MN Lobbyists

The 2023 legislative session marked a record number of bills introduced, resulting in many making their way to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law.

This article is a high-level (non-exhaustive) list of employment law changes that AASP-MN members (employers and employees) should be aware of. 1

Legalized Recreational Cannabis 

As a longstanding policy priority for the DFL, it is no surprise that legalizing the use and sale of cannabis became law. The legislation made a record number of stops (in seemingly every committee) throughout the legislative process, an indication of just how complex and wide-ranging the legislation is. Many provisions, including legal use, took effect at the beginning of August. Some key things employers and employees should be aware of include: employers can still prohibit impairment (including from drugs, alcohol and cannabis) while at work or operating employer equipment and vehicles. Employers can also prohibit the use or sale of drugs, including cannabis, at the workplace. Employers should have an established and written policy that outlines any prohibitions on cannabis use. 

Employers, except in limited instances, cannot regulate or prohibit employee use of cannabis outside of the workplace and may not drug test for it. Exceptions, meaning employers who can continue testing for cannabis, apply to some professions such as police officers and firefighters, health care workers, as well as some “safety-sensitive” positions. Safety-sensitive is defined as “a job, including any supervisory or management position, in which an impairment caused by drug, alcohol or cannabis usage would threaten the health or safety of any person.” 2

We expect tweaks to this law in the coming legislative session as the state reacts to and learns from the rollout of this massive policy change. 

Earned Sick and Safe Time

Starting in January of 2024, new Earned Sick and Safe Time (ESST) requirements will take effect. Employers must provide at least one hour of ESST for every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 48 hours. Employees must be allowed to carry over hours from year-to-year up to 80 hours. An employer’s current policies may satisfy the law if they meet the minimum hours. ESST can be used for:

  The employee’s illness, injury, health condition or preventative care;

  To care for a “family member” for the family member’s illness, injury, health condition or preventative care;

  Leave related to domestic violence or personal safety issues for an employee or “family member,”

  Certain business closures by order of a “public official;” and

  The employee’s inability to work or telework because of health concerns related to the potential transmission of a communicable illness related to a public emergency.

Paid Family and Medical Leave

Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML), unlike ESST, is for longer-term absences due to serious medical issues (your own or a family member’s), or to bond with a new child. PFML will begin in January of 2026. Employers and employees will pay a 0.07 percent payroll tax to fund the insurance program. Employees, when out on PFML, will claim benefits from the insurance program, not be paid by their employers. Small employers may receive funds to cover a portion of the cost of a temporary worker. 

Paid leave is broken into two categories – 1) medical leave (including for pregnancy or recovery from childbirth) and 2) all other leave. Workers may take up to 12 weeks per benefit year in each of the two categories, but workers who need leave from both categories will be capped at 20 weeks in a benefit year.

Salary History

Minnesota becomes the 29th state to ban questions regarding an employee or prospective employee’s salary history. On January 1, 2024, the Minnesota Human Rights Act will provide that: “An employer, employment agency, or labor organization shall not inquire into, consider or require disclosure from any source the pay history of an applicant for employment for the purpose of determining wages, salary, earnings, benefits or other compensation for that applicant.” 3 An employee may voluntarily provide this information to an employer if intended to be a part of a salary negotiation. However, once volunteered, an employer can only act on that information by increasing a salary or wage offer.

Non-compete Clauses

Minnesota now bans non-compete clauses. Applying to agreements entered into on or after July 1, 2023, the law applies to employers of any size, employees and independent contractors. The prohibition does not apply to non-disclosure agreements or agreements to protect trade secrets or confidential information. In addition, the law does not apply to non-solicitation agreements or agreements restricting the ability to use client or contact lists.

1 This is for educational purposes and does not constitute legal advice.

2 Sec. 181.950 MN Statutes

3 363A.08 MN Statutes

Want more? Check out the September 2023 issue of AASP-MN News!