Workers' Rights in Minnesota was Focus of July's Immigrant and Refugee Affairs Forum
July 20, 2021
July’s Immigrant and Refugee Affairs Forum shared a lot of great resources from the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) regarding the rights of workers in Minnesota. We also received an update from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) regarding a new community reviewer process for DEED’s grant programs.
John Stiffin from DLI’s Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs helped moderate the DLI presentations during the forum and he gave a quick overview of DLI. He explained that their agency’s mission is to ensure Minnesota’s work and living environments are equitable, healthy and safe and their vision is to be a trusted resource and an impartial regulator for employers, employees and property owners. For July’s forum, DLI focused on three of their seven business units.
David Skovholt spoke on Labor Standards, explaining that there are many different agencies involved with labor standards in Minnesota.
Some of the Labor Standards enforced by DLI include the Minnesota Fair Labor Standards Act, Women’s Economic Security Act, Wage Theft Prevention Act, Child Labor Standards Act and other laws related to employment, wages, conditions and hours. Their agenda is to make sure that workers are paid correctly. They also want to make sure employers are aware of the laws they must follow. He mentioned wage theft can be intentional or accidental and can happen more frequently to immigrant and refugee workers because their job descriptions and benefits aren’t always explained to them in their native language. The Wage Theft Prevention Act now requires employers to have an Employee Notice that provides job information to workers in their chosen language. Three areas that Labor Standards focuses on include restaurants and hospitality, homecare, and construction because jobs in these industries tend to have more undocumented workers and youth workers where wage theft or job misclassification can happen more frequently.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
Next, Breca Tschida spoke on Minnesota OSHA compliance. OSHA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Labor. They develop job safety and health standards and enforce them through worksite inspections. They also report and record job-related injuries and illnesses and well as provide training programs to increase knowledge on occupational safety and health.
Under OSHA, workers have the right to bring up safety and health concerns in the workplace to their employers without fear of discharge or discrimination. They also have the right to get training from employers on a variety of health and safety hazards and standards that employers must follow. Workers may file a complaint with OSHA if they believe a violation of a safety or health standard exists in the workplace.
If you need to file a complaint with OSHA, you can find more info on DLI’s website here.
Tschida also presented on the Minnesota OSHA Workplace Safety Consultation Division. This division provides free workplace inspections and other workplace safety services at the request of the business. Among the services provided are ergonomics training, industrial hygiene and safety grants.
Next, we heard from LaRohn Latimer and Leslie Philmon for Apprenticeship Minnesota where they promote and develop apprenticeships with employers. There are many benefits of apprenticeships to employers in all industries and for companies of all sizes. For employers, it helps to build and shape their own workforce and create a new skilled worker pipeline. For workers, they help provide employment, in-demand job training, and livable wages. You can find more info on apprenticeships for both employees and workers on their website.
Community Reviewers Wanted for Employment and Training Grants
Maureen Ramirez from DEED’s Office of Economic Opportunity spoke on grant funds that DEED distributes for worker and training programs. They’ve recently made significant changes to grant making for workforce training so that DEED can distribute funds faster. Another major change is the addition of community reviewers which will allow external reviewers in the decision-making process.
Beginning in July, DEED will recruit community members to serve on grant review panels for youth and adult workforce development. Training will be required and provided to those who participate, and all training will take place remotely and online.
You can more information on how to apply to be a community reviewer on DEED’s website here.
If you missed this month’s forum, you can watch our discussion on DEED’s YouTube channel here.