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MRA Report: Keep Up With Changing Laws and Their Impacts

When we survey the members of the Minnesota Restaurant Association and ask them which aspects of our work they find most important and most valuable, the top response is usually the advocacy we do with the legislature, local governments and regulators. Another frequent response is that our members value the information we provide on all of the laws, rules, and regulations with which foodservice businesses have to comply. We publish the “Hospitality Minnesota Legal Guide,” which is the only comprehensive, state-specific resource for our industry. The 2016 edition is complete and in the publication process. Our members will receive a printed copy soon and a digital version will be available on our website.

The last update was in 2013, so it shouldn’t be surprising that there are a large number of changes, including many new topics. (There were no city specific regulations included in the 2013-2014 edition, for example.) Organized into three parts, the first section deals with labor and employment issues, the second addresses topics pertinent to the hospitality industry and the third includes some of the actual statutes and rules. 

As you know, the laws change from time to time, so this document is not a substitute for legal advice, and you should contact your attorney for specific details on the impact of laws and regulations on your business. We can direct you to an Allied member law firm that provides free legal advice to members of the MRA.

The scope of the changes for the 2016 edition is absolutely amazing. Writing the updates gave me a whole new appreciation for the wide range of rules that restaurant operators have to keep track of and follow. There are new sections or major revisions to 45 of the topics in the publication. Some of the new sections are:

“Ban the box” provision for employment applications;

Affordable Care Act update, including a new definition of a seasonal employer and a seasonal worker;

Background check requirements;

Banquet servers can be classified as “commission retail” employees who are not eligible for overtime pay;

Captioning on televisions in public places;

Deaf and hard of hearing requirements from the Americans with Disabilities Act;

Dogs on patio ordinances for restaurants;

Drug and alcohol testing in the workplace;

E-cigarette regulations;

Immigration impacts of the president’s executive order;

Impact of the extension of marriage to all couples on HR policies;

Liquor law changes in 2014 and 2015, including batch cocktails, infused spirits, the definition of wine and allowed hours of service;

Menu labeling requirements from the Food and Drug Administration;

Minimum-wage rules and amounts for each of the five types of wages in the 2015 law;

Minneapolis “Green to Go” packaging requirements;

New mandate for recycling in the metro area;

New rules for tastings at farmers markets;

Payment card changes including the new “chip and pin” rule;

St. Louis Park “zero waste” packaging requirements;

Sales tax application to local government purchases;

Tax changes for service charges and automatic gratuities;

Updated service animal requirements and definitions from the Americans with Disabilities Act;

Women’s Economic Security Act provisions;

Wage disclosure allowed and adverse actions prohibited;

Unpaid maternity leave extended to 12 weeks;

Required accommodations for pregnant employees extended;

Required accommodations for nursing mothers extended;

Employers that offer paid sick time required to cover the care of in-laws, grandchildren and time needed for personal safety.

The guide also includes the most recent Department of Revenue fact sheets for collecting or paying the proper sales tax on a wide variety of sales and purchases. 

Oftentimes, we find out about some of the new topics that need to be included in the guide from the questions we receive from the industry. I have already started the file for the next update. It's a rare day when the phone doesn’t ring with an interesting and sometimes unique question from a hospitality business owner or operator. Questions also come by email and in person at various industry events. 

We learn how to help others by researching answers to the questions we receive. My answers almost always start with “I am not a lawyer and I can’t give you legal advice,” however, I can often tell you what the law or rule says. 

As a trade association, our role is to watch your back so you can watch your business. Please feel free to call us.

You can also join us at Foodservice News' Restaurant Business Summit on April 12 at Coup d'etat in Minneapolis (details p. 21). I'll share a legislative update and our staff will be there all morning to answer questions and share more about the association.  

Dan McElroy is executive vice president of the Minnesota Restaurant Association and president and CEO of Hospitality Minnesota, which also includes the Lodging and Resort & Campground associations.

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