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Minnesota has a history of labor incidents, including the Great Mill Disaster in 1878, when a dust explosion killed 18 people. Reforms such as dust collectors were soon implemented to prevent similar disasters. While less dramatic, discrimination against employees based on race, gender, or age has also been a labor issue in the state. In 2022, the number of discrimination claims filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission increased by over 51% from the previous year.

Fortunately, Minnesota has passed new laws to improve workers’ quality of life, including changes to sick and safe leave regulations. Note that the latter are employment laws, which control how employers and workers interact. Meanwhile, the state’s labor laws protect workers' rights, such as the right to organize and bargain collectively.

With that in mind, individuals who believe their employer has violated federal and state labor regulations may find this article helpful. It contains an overview of laws protecting workers in Minnesota and provides legal resources for those with employment-related concerns. 

Minnesota Wage and Hour Laws

Minimum Wage

Since 2017, minimum wage rates have increased yearly to account for inflation. The statewide rates are different depending on whether the employer is a large or small one. Under Minnesota law, large employers have a gross sales volume of at least $500,000 annually. On the other hand, small employers are those with less than $500,000 in yearly gross sales. 

The table below shows the wage difference between employees working for large and small employers. It also includes information about wages paid to youth workers. 

Type of employee

Minimum wage effective January 1, 2023

Minimum wage effective January 1, 2024

Working for a large employer

$10.59 per hour

$10.85 per hour

Working for a small employer

$8.63 per hour 

$8.85 per hour

Working as an employee under 18 

$8.63 per hour 

$8.85 per hour

Additionally, there is a difference in the wages earned by workers in certain municipalities. In Minneapolis, large businesses (those with over 100 employees) must pay workers an hourly rate of $15.19. This will increase to $15.57 by January 1, 2024. As for Saint Paul, it requires large employers (those with 101 to 10,000 workers) to compensate employees with a $15 hourly rate. Similar to the rates in Minneapolis, this wage is set to change to $15.57 by 2024, albeit by July 1. 

Did you know that some workers are not covered by state minimum wage laws? These people include taxicab drivers, babysitters, and volunteers employed in nonprofit organizations. Another notable fact is that employees can talk to their coworkers about how much they make, and their employer can't punish them for it. A new law in 2023 makes this even clearer by positing that business owners can't discipline, penalize, or threaten employees who talk about their wages.   

If an employer fails to pay an employee’s wages, they may face harsh penalties. These include fines between $1,000 and $100,000. Also, guilty business owners may be imprisoned for up to 20 years.  

Wage Payment

Under Minnesota law, wages must be paid once every 31 days at the minimum. As for commissions, they need to be given to workers once every three months. New hires must be compensated during their first regular payday for earned wages during the first half of the 31-day period.  

The state also requires employers to pay terminated employees within 24 hours of their demand for compensation. For those who have quit their jobs, their final paycheck must be delivered within 20 days from their last day of work. 

Payroll Deductions

Wage deductions are allowed in Minnesota in certain cases. For example, an employer can deduct loan payments from an employee’s wages, but only if the worker has voluntarily agreed to this arrangement in writing. Court orders can also be used to authorize wage deductions, and similar rules apply to deductions for lost money or damaged equipment.

Other types of wage deductions are allowed, but with some restrictions. For example, an employer can deduct up to $50 for the cost of rented or purchased uniforms, but they must return it to the employee when they leave the job. The employer can also deduct work-related travel expenses, but they cannot take away so much money that the employee's pay falls below the Minnesota minimum wage.

Overtime Pay Regulations

The rate for overtime pay must be 1.5 times that of the regular rate employees receive. In addition, overtime is given to individuals who work over 48 hours within a seven-day period. These regulations apply to every business in Minnesota, regardless of factors like: 

  • Its gross sales. 

  • Its size. 

  • The designations of its employees, whether seasonal, part-time, full-time, or temporary. 

Note that the 48-hour accrual is different from the guidelines under the Fair Labor Standards Act. These rules require employers to pay overtime for more than 40 hours worked within seven days. Such guidelines apply to businesses with over $500,000 in gross annual sales. Nursing homes, schools, and hospitals must also follow federal rules. 

Not all employees are covered by overtime pay laws. For instance, agricultural workers are not required to be given overtime if their weekly salary is higher than $778.37. This amount applies to large employers, while small ones are exempt from overtime requirements if they pay workers over $634.31 weekly. Other employees not subject to such laws include outside salespeople. 

Sick and Safe Leaves

Sick and safe leaves are paid time off that employers provide to workers, who can use it for different reasons, such as:

  • Recover from a physical or mental illness. 

  • Assist family members receiving treatment for a physical or mental illness. Incidentally, the definition of “family member” is extensive; it includes foster children and siblings of the employee’s parents. 

  • Prevent the spread of disease if the employee is determined to be a health risk to others by a healthcare professional or authority.

  • Seek assistance from individuals or organizations to deal with the effects of sexual assault, stalking, or domestic abuse. 

Employees in Minnesota incur one hour of leave after every 30 hours worked. The maximum number of hours mandated for leave is 48 hours, but employers can agree to extend this amount. 

Ultimately, sick and safe leaves are provided to those who perform their job at least 80 hours within a year. Also, to receive such benefits, they must not be independent contractors. A new law set to take effect by January 1, 2024, adds new employer responsibilities. These include: 

  • Inform employees through earnings statements of their total number of usable earned leaves. 

  • Include a notice about sick and safe leaves in the employee handbook, if one is present. 

Laws on Labor Unions in Minnesota

Labor unions, also known as labor organizations, are groups that exist to help employees express their collective bargaining rights with their employers regarding terms, conditions, or grievances of employment. These rights help workers access job security and decent healthcare. 

Besides collective bargaining, the National Labor Relations Act enables employees nationwide to: 

  • Organize a union. 

  • Distribute brochures and flyers regarding unions in non-work locations during periods like lunch breaks.

  • Raise complaints over work-related conditions through a union or a government agency. 

  • Hold a strike and picket.  

Remember that Minnesota is not a right-to-work state. To put it differently, individuals in the North Star State may be compelled to join their union as a requirement for employment. The advantages of states with no right-to-work laws are numerous, though. An example is wages. Union members earn 18% more than their non-union counterparts. This figure is even higher for women and Hispanic employees at 23% and 35%, respectively. 

Minnesota Workplace Harassment and Discrimination Laws

Minnesota laws protect employees or job applicants from discrimination based on multiple factors. These are: 

  • Age. 

  • Sexual orientation. 

  • Race. 

  • Creed. 

  • Familial status.

  • Disability. 

  • National origin. 

  • Participation in local human rights commissions. 

In addition to ordinances that protect employee rights, two laws specifically address the needs of workers with disabilities and workers of African heritage. 

The first law under the Minnesota Human Rights Act requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for workers with disabilities, including those who need to bring emotional support or service animals to work. However, this is not an automatic right, and employers do not have to make accommodations that would pose undue hardship.

The second law, the CROWN Act, prohibits discrimination against employees because of their natural hair. This includes hairstyles like twists and braids. Employees who are sent home due to their hair may be able to claim discrimination under this law. 

Child Labor Laws in Minnesota

Child labor laws protect individuals under 18 from hazardous jobs and ensure that they have educational opportunities. In Minnesota, those under the age of 14 cannot be employed. However, there are some exceptions, such as child actors and models. These kids must be granted permission to work by the Director of Labor Standards and Apprenticeship on a case-by-case basis.

Older children face different restrictions, such as limits on hours of work. For example, high school students ages 16 and 17 cannot work before 5 a.m. on school days or after 11 p.m. on nights before school days. However, their parents or guardians can permit them to work 30 minutes later, until 4:30 a.m. and 11:30 p.m., respectively. Additionally, 16- and 17-year-olds with a Class D license may drive single-unit vehicles weighing up to 24,000 pounds, but they may not drive buses. 

Some occupations are off-limits to all children. Mining, construction, logging, and ice harvesting are all tasks that individuals under 18 cannot perform. Similarly, they cannot operate various power-driven machinery. These include shears, press brakes, and jointers. They are also banned from using meat grinders and meat saws. 

Despite these restrictions, violations of child labor laws persist in the country. In Minnesota, meat processing plants located in Worthington, Marshall, and St. Cloud were found to employ minors. The fines imposed on these plants for their violations are worth over $378,000. 

Generally, the consequences for businesses that do not follow child labor laws are severe. For example, employing individuals under 16 for over eight hours a day leads to a $500 fine. A $5,000 fine, meanwhile, is imposed on employers with workers under 18 who have been injured because of their hazardous job. Businesses may also find themselves unable to ship their products for a certain period. 

Those aiming to report violations of child labor laws can do so through MDLI. The agency is accessible through their phone number, 800-342-5354 or 651-284-5075. It can also be reached at 

Required Posters in Minnesota Workplaces

The MDLI requires employers to place certain posters in areas where workers can easily see them. Such notices are updated if changes regarding state law are implemented. Some of these posters show topics on: 

  • Workers’ compensation. 

  • “Unemployed?” 

  • Minimum wage rates. 

  • Age discrimination laws. 

  • Rights and responsibilities of employers and employees to ensure health protection and safety in the workplace. 

Certain municipalities in Minnesota have additional requirements. For example, the City of Minneapolis mandates businesses to put up a poster that shows employee rights regarding different matters. These include wage theft and employer retaliation. Similar details are seen in the poster required by the City of Saint Paul. 

Is Minnesota an At-Will Employment State?

Yes, Minnesota is an at-will state. As such, employees may leave their organization at any time. Similarly, employers can fire their workers for any reason. Note that the at-will employment laws do not extend to some situations. 

For instance, it is illegal for employers to let go of employees if the cause of firing is discriminatory. Factors like age, gender, religion, and race must be irrelevant in the decision to terminate someone. 

Employees also have contract rights. In other words, they cannot face termination unless they break their contract. Keep in mind that contracts may come in the form of a written document, like an offer letter or a collective bargaining agreement. These documents state how workers are fired. 

What Qualifies as Wrongful Termination in Minnesota?

Wrongful termination is the act of firing someone for unlawful reasons. One such reason is discrimination. If factors like age, gender, creed, or marital status have influenced the decision to dismiss employees, that can be grounds for a wrongful termination lawsuit. 

Thankfully, Minnesota law protects workers from unjust firing. For example, an employee who has been let go can ask for a written explanation. This request must be made 15 days from the date of firing. Within 10 days of the receipt of the request, the employer needs to submit a document showing the truthful reason for the termination. 

Note that those who report their employer’s violations of state or federal laws to the proper authorities receive legal protection. In other words, businesses cannot retaliate against workers by firing them. 

Other situations where workers are protected from wrongful termination include:

  • Taking sick, parenting, or pregnancy leaves. 

  • Having their wages garnished, especially in cases involving child support. 

There is also the matter of mass layoffs. Companies have different reasons for terminating the employment of a significant portion of their workforce. These include shifting priorities, rising costs, or uncertain economic conditions. Regardless of these reasons, businesses must comply with a host of federal and state laws to avoid penalties. 

One of these regulations is the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, otherwise known as the WARN Act. It requires employers with 100 or more full-time workers to make an official announcement 60 days before a mass layoff or plant closure. Additionally, businesses filing for bankruptcy need to inform their employees immediately. Those who fail to send notice of such decisions face potential fines. 

These obligations to employers are significant, especially within Minnesota. The state saw 2,246 workers affected by mass layoffs in 2022, an 8.8% increase from 2021. 

How Do You Report an Employer in Minnesota for Wrongful Termination?

Employees seeking to report their employer for wrongful termination based on discrimination can contact the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. MDHR decides if the Minnesota Human Rights Act covers the reported incident. 

If the case falls under such laws, investigations ensue. The agency then determines whether there is probable cause that the employer committed a civil rights violation. If no consensus is reached between the two parties, the agency, through the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office, files a lawsuit against the employer. 

Individuals can contact MDHR via phone at 1-800-675-3704 or 651-539-1100. The agency is also accessible through its email address, Additionally, one may fill out an online form to report discrimination. 

Sometimes, MDHR finds no probable cause of any violation. When this happens, the employee can turn to the EEOC for assistance. EEOC requires victims of discrimination to file a complaint within 300 days from the incident date, and this deadline applies if the employer has 15 or more workers. If the business has fewer than 15 employees, the deadline for filing complaints is one year from the date of the incident. Those aiming to report discrimination with EEOC can contact the agency through their Minneapolis Area Office. Its phone number is 612-552-7306. 

In the end, if the MDHR or EEOC cannot resolve the wrongful termination case, the employee may consult an attorney. They can walk the affected individual through the process of recovering compensation from their employer. Lawyers also educate their clients on how alternative dispute resolution methods like mediation bring them closer to their legal goals. 

What Is the Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Termination Cases in Minnesota?

The deadline for filing a wrongful termination case before MDHR is one year. Similarly, affected workers have one year to file a lawsuit against their employer. However, this one-year period does not apply in some situations. 

For instance, if the wrongful termination case deals with a breach of contract, the employee has six years to file a claim before the applicable court. Note that, under state law, contracts may be express or implied. The former refers to a verbal or written agreement between the employer and worker; the latter refers to an agreement based on the prior statements or actions of the employer. 

Employees wrongfully terminated for reporting the illegal practices of their employer must also contend with different deadlines. These include:  

Basis for Wrongful Termination 

Filing Deadline

Reporting employer’s violation of Minnesota OSHA regulations 

30 days

Reporting employer’s violation of the prohibition of employee termination for non-attendance in company meetings regarding political or religious matters 

90 days  

Reporting employer’s violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act 

Two years; three years for willful violations 

Reporting employer’s violation of the Minnesota Whistleblower Act 

Six years 

How Much Can Someone Sue an Employer in Minnesota for Wrongful Termination?

The damages an employee can receive for wrongful termination depend on several factors, such as the severity of the violation and the laws of the state where the employee worked. 

There are two types of wrongful termination damages: compensatory and punitive. Compensatory damages are meant to make up for the employee's losses, such as lost wages, medical bills, and emotional distress. Within the context of employment and labor law, these damages can take the form of:

  • Back pay: This is the compensation the worker could have received between their termination and the trial. It remunerates losses that have already taken place. Back pay may encompass commissions and bonuses. 

  • Front pay: This is the money the worker is estimated to lose after the trial. It remunerates losses that are anticipated.

Punitive damages, on the other hand, are meant to punish the employer and discourage others from committing the same violation. They are only awarded in certain cases, such as when the employer's actions were particularly malicious or reckless. 

Keep in mind that in cases involving discrimination, there are limits on the damages one can receive. These caps differ based on the number of people employed by the business: 

Number of Employees 

Damages Cap

15 to 100


101 to 200 


201 to 500 


More than 500


Resources for Employees in Minnesota

If a Minnesota worker needs further guidance, the resources below can help address employment and labor law-related issues. One may find links to career assistance platforms, state agencies, and benefit programs. 

Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development

The agency helps Minnesotans facing employment challenges. It manages multiple programs that assist individuals seeking to resolve various issues, like paid leave and disability aid. The agency also oversees CareerForce, a platform that matches individuals with employment opportunities. 

One can contact the agency via phone at 800-657-3858 or 651-259-7114. It can also be reached through 

Minnesota Unemployment Insurance

This organization allows individuals to apply for unemployment insurance benefits. Besides those who have lost their jobs, it caters to employees whose working hours have been greatly reduced. The resource also provides multiple videos that educate Minnesotans whose claims for benefits were denied. 

Note that the application process requires personal information like Social Security numbers. One may apply online or by phone at 1-877-898-9090 or 651-296-3644. Note that there are different hours of operation depending on the application process. 

Office of the Minnesota Attorney General

The office plays the role of chief legal officer for the state. It has experience representing more than 100 commissions, state agencies, and boards. It also investigates violations of wage theft laws in Minnesota. Some forms of theft include stealing tips or deducting wages without authorization. One can contact the office through its phone number, 800-627-3529.

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