DFL rejects sensible amendments to paid family and medical leave plan

One of the main problems with the paid family and medical leave scheme being pushed by the DFL in St. Paul is the extent to which it will force businesses to comply with it, irrespective of whether or not those businesses already operate a scheme for paid family and medical leave.

Most Minnesota businesses and most Minnesota workers are, in fact, already covered by such schemes. As I’ve noted before, the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce says 80% of its member companies already provide paid family leave, The National Federation of Independent Business, an association of small businesses, says:

The vast majority of small business owners provide flexibility for employees to pick up kids from school, attend tee ball games, and attend to family emergencies. A one-size-fits-all government mandate is both financially and administratively burdensome. NFIB opposes these unnecessary mandates.

A 2019 analysis by nonpartisan House researchers found that just under 200,000 Minnesota workers would take up benefits in the program annually — less than 7% of the state’s workforce.

In other words, under this scheme 93% of Minnesota’s workers will be paying a tax for something they already get without.

If you like your paid leave plan, you can keep it

All of those workers can keep the scheme they currently have — as long as it meets exacting new standards imposed by the government and enforced by a large, expensive, brand new state bureaucracy.

As my colleague, Martha Njolomole, wrote of a previous scheme:

The model version program that was passed by the House makes a lot of stipulations, like when employees can take leave, how employers should and should not treat employees who take leave, and others. These stipulations and violations would raise the administrative, bookkeeping, and compliance costs for employers.

Furthermore, the opt-out portion of the bill requires that private benefit plans mirror the state-mandated program if businesses are to be exempt. Not only that, but private benefits programs will be overseen by a commissioner, who has the power to terminate such programs if a business violates rules. Violations warranting terminations can be as minor as businesses failing to provide reports.

So in essence, the state program exemption rules lock employers into the mandated paid leave program, increasing bureaucracy and government control over private business operations.

One is reminded of Gogol’s play The Government Inspector.

In an effort to protect Minnesota’s businesses and workers from the tentacles of this bureaucratic octopus, Republicans on the House Labor Committee offered four reasonable amendment to the bill:

  • A2 limited eligibility to full-time employees (like FMLA)
  • A3 limited application to employers with 50+ employees (FMLA and Families First Corona Virus Relief Act compliant)
  • A7 deleted from the expansive definition of “family member” the terms “individual related by blood or whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship” and “up to one individual annually designated by the employee”
  • A8 changed the penalties on employers for record keeping and other violations back to $1,000 per incidence (current law) from $10,000.

None was accepted. If this measure passes, the bureaucrats will be coming.