The following changes to Minnesota employment law take effect on August 1, 2023.
Cannabis Legalized and Protected
Recreational cannabis use has been legalized in Minnesota and given significant protections in the employment context. First, the law that protects employees from discrimination based on their use of “lawful consumable products” has been expanded to include cannabis—meaning that employers generally can’t take any adverse action against an applicant or employee for being a cannabis user.
Additionally, the state’s workplace drug testing law has been amended to limit employer cannabis testing. Notably, employers can’t require pre-employment drug tests for cannabis, except for certain positions listed in the statute, when required by state or federal law, or when necessary under a federal contract.
Employers can still prohibit the use of cannabis while on the job and prohibit employees from being impaired at work. However, for an employer to have an effective and legal policy, they need to address their rules around cannabis specifically and in writing. They also need to ensure that they’re following Minnesota’s fairly restrictive drug testing rules, which were already in place and continue to apply.
If you’re planning to maintain any workplace policies related to cannabis, especially those that include testing or discipline, work with an attorney to ensure they comply with this new and complex law.
Limits on Employer-Required Meetings
Employers can’t threaten to take or actually take adverse action against an employee in order to get them to attend, or for not attending, a meeting intended to express the employer’s opinion on religious or political matters. The same applies for receipt of communications that are intended to communicate the employer’s views on religious or political matters.
Matters are defined as religious if they relate to religious belief, affiliation, practice, or the decision to join or support a religious organization or association. Matters are considered political if they relate to any of the following:
- Elections for political office
- Political parties
- Proposals to change legislation, regulations, or public policy
- The decision to join or support any political party or political, civic, community, fraternal, or labor organization
The primary intent of the law is to prevent employers from coercing employees to attend “captive audience meetings” where the employer presents their views on unionization or labor organizing. It doesn’t apply to meetings or communications that are strictly voluntary, necessary for employees to perform their job duties, or communications that are required by law.
Employers are required to post a notice to employees about these rights within 30 days of the law becoming effective. We recommend checking Minnesota’s Workplace Posters website for a sample notice closer to August 31.
- Allow employees to opt out of any meeting or communication covered by this law
- Post the required notice where other employee notices are displayed
Hairstyle Discrimination Prohibited
The state’s employment discrimination law, which applies to employers of all sizes, now defines race to include traits associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and styles such as braids, locs, and twists. While the law calls out hairstyle discrimination specifically, the protection for traits associated with race may ultimately generate broader applications of the law, such as protections for dialect and styles of dress.
Employers should evaluate any policies that limit hairstyles, including policies that contain indirect restrictions, like those that require hair to be less than a certain length. If you have safety concerns, brainstorm ways to safely allow protected hairstyles. For example, employees with long hair may be able to tie it back or cover it during hazardous activities. If you can’t resolve a conflict between protected hairstyles and safety, we recommend consulting an attorney before taking adverse action against an employee.
- Update your equal employment opportunity (EEO) policy, and any other policies that include protected classes, to include traits associated with race.
- Review (and if needed, revise) your dress code, grooming, or appearance policies to ensure they don’t prohibit protected hairstyles.
- Talk to managers and those involved in the hiring process about unconscious bias and not making judgments about professionalism or cultural fit based on an applicant’s hairstyle.