New Minneapolis sick leave rules receive praise, questions

The public comment period is meant to inform city officials on how the new rules will affect them.

Minneapolis City Council voted to deny Doran Companies'  demolition of the commercial property building located at 1319 4th Street SE, which houses Mesa Pizza, Dinkytown Tattoo and Camdi Restaurant in Dinkytown.

Chelsea Gortmaker

Minneapolis City Council voted to deny Doran Companies’ demolition of the commercial property building located at 1319 4th Street SE, which houses Mesa Pizza, Dinkytown Tattoo and Camdi Restaurant in Dinkytown.

Bella Dally-Steele

Minneapolis residents will be able to voice opinions on the city’s new sick and safe time rules until May 1, which expand paid sick time options for workers.

Under the new regulations that begin July 1, city businesses with six or more employees must provide employees paid sick time; businesses of five or fewer must do the same, but may choose to provide it unpaid.

During the public comment period, many city residents have voiced their support of these new rules, but some business owners worry about resulting administrative changes.

“By and large public comments have been positive,” said Ward 3 Council Member Jacob Frey. 

Frey said comments came from a mix of business owners and employees, most of whom praised the rules. But a common question from businesses was how they could roll back previous business policies that exceeded the new requirements.

He said owners will need to sort out the logistics, but the change will improve economic and health conditions at workplaces.

Larissa Little, a University of Minnesota sophomore who works at the Dinkytown Target Express, said the new rules would give her the option to take time off.

In the past year, she has only taken three days off because she needs the money. She said she works even when she’s sick.

Mike Mulrooney, owner of Blarney Pub and Grill, said the new rules won’t have a big effect on his business because he already gives paid sick leave.

But he said some restaurants may feel a larger impact.

“This affects different businesses in different ways,” he said. “I know there are different points of view on it. I’ve just chosen to take care of my employees.”

He said what works for his business may not work for others, which may create issues once the paid sick time starts.

Randal Gast, president of the Dinkytown Business Association, said the rules come at a chaotic time for business owners, especially when paid time off is already available to employees.

He said when paired with a push for a $15 per hour minimum wage and the Green to Go food packaging initiative, paid sick leave may hurt businesses by making them fund too many new city initiatives at once.

An increase in competition, caused by new app-based delivery services and an influx of restaurants in the University area, makes it even harder for restaurants to offset costs, Gast said.

“For us, the business community in Minneapolis, it’s scary because there seems to be no real connections to the community with these new programs,” he said.

Ultimately, Gast said businesses will need more clarification on the new rules.

“It is very hard to come up with a valid opinion when the rules are still vague,” he said.