Minnesota lawmakers recently passed a new labor bill that will expand protections for workers in a myriad of industries across the state. We’re going to take a closer look at some of the main components of the new bill and explain how they should prove beneficial to workers in different industries across Minnesota.
Wage Theft Protections For Construction Workers
As we have talked about on the blog in the past, wage theft is a major problem in the construction industry in Minnesota. The new protections hope to change that. Under the reform, general construction contractors can be held liable for wage theft by their subcontractors and will have to make up the difference to workers if they are not paid in full for their work.
General contractors will now have to pay their workers for their unpaid wages and then move forward with legal action against a subcontractor if they failed to pay workers what they are owed. Proponents believe the change flips the power dynamic so that general contractors with more resources and legal experience are responsible for correcting wage theft. They also believe that it will deter general contractors from working with subcontractors with a history of shady payments practices.
The change will not affect unionized contractors because the unions have their own procedures for collecting lost wages.
Amazon Productivity Transparency
Many workers in Amazon warehouses say that high productivity standards and limited transparency about these quotas are contributing to excessive injuries, and part of the bill attempts to address these concerns. Companies like Amazon that operate warehouse distribution centers will need to tell workers what demand quotas are expected and provide workers with their individual productivity data. By being more up front about quotas and productivity targets, lawmakers believe that workers won’t be rushing dangerously through tasks to avoid potential discipline for missed targets.
The change will be required for all distribution centers with 250 or more employees, and workers will not be forced to skip breaks or meals in order to hit their targets. Companies would also face potential discipline for failing to provide workers with productivity data if it is requested. The bill also states that labor officials would be required to investigate companies who have injury rates 30 percent higher than the average rate for comparable workplaces.
Meatpacking Safety Improvements
Meatpacking and processing facilities with 100 or more workers must now provide workers with training for all the tasks they are responsible for performing, as well as training on the hazards associated with each task. Workers would be allowed to refuse work that they reasonably believe is dangerous, and their company would have to continue paying them for missed hours until the hazard has been fixed.
Companies must also provide training on how to identify the early warning signs of musculoskeletal injuries and how to report these injuries to a supervisor. The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry will also hire a meatpacking industry worker rights coordinator to better serve injured workers.
Finally, the bill also mentions that Minnesota will create a first-in-the-nation state ergonomics requirement that applies to major industries like warehouse distribution centers, meatpacking plants and healthcare facilities. The goal of the ergonomics program will be to reduce the risk of repetitive strain among these industries by assessing risks and training employees on how to prevent and report these injuries. Grants will be provided to employers who make these ergonomic improvements.
These changes are a major step in the right direction, but if you still find yourself needing assistance after an on-the-job injury, reach out to Dean and the team at Margolis Law Firm today at (952) 230-2700.