The legal fight over Minneapolis’ sick-leave ordinance continued Tuesday before the Minnesota Court of Appeals with lawyers for the city and a group of businesses arguing over the reach and implementation of the new requirements.

Judges Randolph W. Peterson, Jill Flaskamp Halbrooks and Tracy M. Smith heard oral arguments from the city and the business group, led by the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, which challenged the ordinance in Hennepin County District Court last year, saying state law pre-empts a municipal ordinance.

The ordinance went into effect July 1 and requires employers to allow employees working in Minneapolis to earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to 48 hours a year.

In January, District Court Judge Mel Dickstein ruled the city could move forward with the ordinance, which the Chamber appealed. Dickstein also said the ordinance could not apply to companies based outside of Minneapolis, which the city appealed.

The parties’ arguments hadn’t changed as of Tuesday.

Chris Larus, a partner at Robins Kaplan, argued on behalf of the Chamber that state law already covers various types of leave, including sick leave, and thus prohibits the additional requirement on businesses of a municipal sick-leave ordinance. City Attorney Susan Segal argued there is no conflict between state law and the ordinance.

“We thought the argument went well and the judges asked good questions and were well prepared,” Segal said Tuesday after the hearing.

The city’s rules for applying the ordinance have been firmed up, Segal told judges. She said sick time can only be accrued for hours of work within Minneapolis, and the ordinance only requires that employees be allowed to use the accrued sick leave for hours of work scheduled within the city.

But that was little comfort to representatives from the Chamber, who argue it’s ridiculous for businesses outside Minneapolis to have to track their employees’ hours in the city and let them accrue sick leave for that time.

“Minneapolis has created such a complex, unworkable mess. They’re now saying, ‘Oh, well, we’ve made this mess a little bit less messy,’ ” said Cam Winton, a lobbyist with the Chamber. “I’m not buying it. The business community’s not buying it.”

St. Paul also has a new sick-leave ordinance that went into effect July 1. A bill at the Legislature that would have pre-empted local labor ordinances was vetoed by Gov. Mark Dayton in May.

A ruling from the Court of Appeals is expected within 90 days.

If the judges uphold the lower court’s ruling allowing Minneapolis to proceed with the ordinance, the Chamber and other businesses suing the city may appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court, which would then decide whether to take the case.

“If we lose, we appeal,” Winton said.


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