Q: Is there a law that requires cities to externally advertise all job openings?
LMC: No. However, a city may find it difficult to defend itself against claims of discrimination if it does not post and openly recruit for most job openings. The city may also have personnel policies or ordinances, union contracts, or civil service bylaws that include language about the procedures to be followed when filling a vacant position.
There are two situations where cities commonly ask this question. The first is when the city has someone who is clearly qualified for a promotional opportunity—like a deputy clerk the city wishes to promote to the clerk’s position. The second is when a city has a need to fill a position for which it has just recently recruited and has an adequate applicant pool from the earlier recruitment. In both cases, there is likely to be sufficient business justification for not externally advertising the position. However, the city should always check in with legal counsel before making a decision not to advertise a job opening.
Learn more from Chapter 2 of the LMC HR Reference Manual.
Q: Under federal health care reform, does the city have to provide health care coverage to all employees who work 30 or more hours per week?
LMC: No, but it may face penalties if it does not. To determine possible penalties, the city must first calculate whether they are an applicable large employer by calculating the total number of full-time and fulltime equivalent employees. Small employers are not subject to penalties. If a large employer, the city then must determine which employees average 30+ hours per week by using one of two methods—the “look-back” or “monthto-month” method. Finally, the employer can then determine whether it is offering “minimum essential coverage” to at least 95 percent of full-time employees. If it is, then it may be subject to penalties only if a full-time employee receives a federal subsidy with a health care exchange. If the city is not offering “minimum essential coverage” to at least 95 percent of employees, it may be subject to a $2,000 penalty per full-time employee for not offering coverage. The League has a new step-by-step resource to help with this process available at www.lmc.org/sharedhc.
Q: Can we use or allow sky lanterns in community celebrations?
LMC: LMC As summer approaches, cities begin to think about special events. Often, these celebrations involve fireworks. Some fireworks retailers last year also carried a product called “sky lanterns.” A sky lantern is made of paper, wire, and a small fuel pad.
When the inside is lit, the heat helps to raise it skyward like a small hot air balloon. Essentially, it is a floating fire ball that goes wherever the wind carries it.
Although sky lanterns may look beautiful when released, they are illegal in the state of Minnesota. Sky lanterns have already caused fires around the globe, as well as injuries and even death. A sky lantern may land when the flame is weak but still burning, so there is significant fire potential if they land on flammable vegetation or buildings. The bottom line is that it is illegal to sell or use sky lanterns in Minnesota. Doing so could result in up to 90 days in jail, or a fine of not more than $1,000, or both.
Q: What can cities do to regulate food trucks with their recent popularity?
LMC: Food trucks are the trendy new way to grab lunch, and these trucks can be found in cities all over the state. The most common ways cities have regulated food trucks are through business licensing and zoning restrictions. Business licensing allows a city to verify that each unit has passed a health inspection and obtained insurance. Zoning restrictions ensure that there is adequate space for parked trucks, and there is a buffer between incompatible uses. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) requires any mobile food unit (such as a truck or cart) to be licensed through MDH to ensure proper food safety.