Minnesota Cities Magazine
More from Sep-Oct 2017 issue

Ask LMC: What Should a Data Practices Policy Cover?

Cities should adopt a policy for data requests.Data Practices
Q: Does a city need a data practices policy? If so, what should be included in the policy?

LMC: Yes, cities should adopt a policy identifying the responsible authority, any designees, and the process for data requests. Until the city makes this designation, the city clerk assumes that role. Recently, in the case of Scheffler v. City of Coon Rapids, the Minnesota Court of Appeals found that cities do not have an obligation to respond to a request unless it was tendered to the specified responsible authority or designee, if there is one.

A responsible authority is defined as “the individual designated by the governing body of the political subdivision as the individual responsible for the collection, use, and dissemination of any set of data on individuals, government data, or summary data.” A designee is defined as “any person designated by a responsible authority to be in charge of individual files or systems containing government data, and to receive and comply with requests for government data.” Even if someone else in the city responded to a request for data, doing so does not make that individual the responsible authority or designee, and the city has no culpability for the responses.

Having a data practices policy that names the city’s responsible authority or designees and that is accessible to the public (like on the city website) protects the city from any claims that the city failed to comply with the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act when the data request went to someone other than the identified people. Learn more at www.lmc.org/data.

Answered by Research Attorney Pamela Whitmore: pwhitmore@lmc.org

Employee Leave
Q: When does state and federal law require the city to grant leave time to employees, either paid or unpaid?

LMC: Minnesota law requires most employers, including cities, to grant leave for pregnancy, parenting, and school conferences and activities, sometimes requiring the use of accrued paid leave if available. The law also requires reasonable time off for testifying as a witness or acting as a juror. Paid leave is required for bone marrow and organ donation and to serve as an election judge. Unpaid leave is required for an employee whose family member has been injured or killed while engaged in active military service, or to attend a send-off or homecoming ceremony associated with a family member’s military service. Employers must also allow up to four years of unpaid leave for an employee to serve in the military. Fifteen days of military leave for training or active service must be paid each calendar year.

State law also requires employers who offer paid sick leave benefits to allow the use of sick leave for the illness or injury of the employee’s child and other family members listed in the law, as well as for providing or receiving assistance because of domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking.

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act requires up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the illness or injury of an employee or the family members defined under the law. The Americans with Disabilities Act may also require a city to grant leave time as a reasonable accommodation.

In any of these situations, the laws can be complex and interact with each other, so consult with the League and your city attorney as needed. Learn more at www.lmc.org/personnel or www.lmc.org/personnelpolicy.

Answered by Human Resources Director Laura Kushner: lkushner@lmc.org

Outdoor Ice RinksCities are not required to have warming
houses or attendants at outdoor ice
rinks.
Q: As winter approaches, we’re considering our budget for hockey activities. Do we have to provide a warming house at our outdoor rinks? Must we provide an attendant?

LMC: Cities do not have to have warming houses or attendants at outdoor ice rinks. The important thing is to clearly communicate with residents about the amenities offered at the rink.

Signage at the rink should indicate:

  • Whether an attendant is on location, even if there is no warming house.
  • The hours the rinks will be open under normal conditions.
  • Rules regarding when the rinks will be closed due to weather— such as when there is two inches or more of snow, or when the temperature drops to 0 degrees or below, including wind chill.
  • Large “Open” and “Closed” signs should be posted to help parents know when they arrive at the skating rink whether the warming house is open, regardless of the posted hours.

The signs posted at the outdoor skating rinks should be inspected periodically to ensure legibility and accuracy. Since many parents may be dropping children off, signage should be highly visible from the parking lot. Learn more at www.lmc.org/parkrec.

Answered by Loss Control Manager Rachel Carlson: rcarlson@lmc.org

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Send your questions to choffacker@lmc.org.

Read the Sep-Oct 2017 issue of Minnesota Cities magazine

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