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Women’s Economic Security Act Takes Effect Today

7/1/2014 10:14:43 AM

New state law will expand economic opportunity for women in Minnesota

ST. PAUL, MN - Today, several provisions of legislation that was signed into law by Gov. Mark Dayton on Mother's Day 2014 take effect. The Women's Economic Security Act (WESA) strengthens workplace protections and flexibility for pregnant women and nursing mothers, expands employment opportunities for women in high-wage, high-demand occupations, and reduces the gender pay gap through increased enforcement of equal pay laws. (/mdhr/assets/Familial_Status_FAQ_tcm1061-213908.pdfFact sheet) Increased pregnancy accommodations and familial status protections went into effect May 12.

By signing the Women's Economic Security Act, Gov. Dayton has significantly expanded protections for women in the workplace, said Commissioner of Human Rights Kevin Lindsey. These measures make a strong statement about Minnesota's commitment to gender equality. The Women's Economic Security Act promises a better future for Minnesota's women and their families, and helps ensure that all Minnesotans will have the opportunity to contribute to our state and our shared prosperity.

Pregnancy Accommodations and Familial Status Protections

Already in place from WESA's adoption are provisions increasing pregnancy accommodation protections and protecting workers from discrimination based on their 'familial status'. The new pregnancy accommodations provisions are enforced by the Department of Labor and complement existing pregnancy protections under the Minnesota Human Rights Act. Protecting 'familial status' in employment means that it is now illegal for employers to discriminate against employees for being pregnant or having minor children living at home.

Pregnancy leave and nursing mothers

WESA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to an employee for health conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth. Employers must make a reasonable effort to provide a private area and a reasonable unpaid break time for working mothers to express breast milk for her infant child. The law also enhances protections for employees seeking to assert rights or remedies if a violation occurs in the workplace. (/mdhr/assets/Familial_Status_FAQ_tcm1061-213908.pdfFact sheet)

Equal pay laws to close gender pay gap

WESA provides equal pay laws to close the gender pay gap to:

  • reduce the gender pay gap through increased enforcement of equal pay laws for state contractors and require businesses with 40 or more employees seeking state contracts more than $500,000 to certify they pay equal wages to workers regardless of gender (effective Aug. 1, 2014);
  • ensure the rights of employees to voluntarily discuss their compensation without fear of retaliation from their employers; (/mdhr/assets/Familial_Status_FAQ_tcm1061-213908.pdfFact sheet) and
  • decrease the gender pay gap to address the "motherhood penalty," that requires businesses to make hiring, promotion and termination decisions regardless of an employee's "/mdhr/employers/familial-status/familial-status.jspfamilial status" (pregnant women and parents and legal guardians of children under 18 who live with them).

Sick and safe leave

WESA expands family and sick leave under the Minnesota Parental Leave Act from six to 12 weeks and allows use of leave during pregnancy. It also allows grandparents to use existing earned sick leave to care for an ill or injured grandchild. (/mdhr/assets/Familial_Status_FAQ_tcm1061-213908.pdfFact sheet)

For victims of domestic violence, the WESA law allows employees to use existing earned sick leave to recover from sexual assault, domestic violence or stalking (/mdhr/assets/Familial_Status_FAQ_tcm1061-213908.pdfFact sheet) and will expand unemployment insurance eligibility on Oct. 5, 2014, to include victims of stalking and sexual assault.

Workforce recruitment and training

WESA expands support for employers; workforce organizations; and others to recruit, prepare, place and retain women in nontraditional occupations and apprenticeships, especially low income and older women. Plus, it supports the development of high economic impact women-owned businesses in nontraditional industries.

Retirement security

WESA enhances retirement security by initiating as study of a state retirement savings plan for those without an employer-provided option.

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Minnesota Department of Human Rights, Communications Department Freeman Building, 625 Robert Street North, Saint Paul, MN 55155

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