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Women's Economic Security Act now in effect in Minnesota - II

In our previous post, we discussed how history was made in Minnesota just a few weeks ago when Governor Mark Dayton signed the Women's Economic Security Act into law. For those still unfamiliar with the measure, it is designed to 1) eliminate the pay gap between men and women, and 2) eliminate impermissible obstacles to both economic progress and career advancement for women.

"While Minnesota's economy continues to grow, progress for women's economic prosperity has lagged woefully behind,” said Sen. Sandy Pappas (D-St. Paul), one of the primary authors of the bill. “WESA will move us in the right direction and ensure women finally receive equal pay for equal work, that we don't face discrimination for being mothers, and that we are treated fairly in the workplace.”

In today's post, the second in a series, we'll briefly examine some of the WESA provisions that are scheduled to take effect starting August 1. 

Minnesota Parenting Leave Law amendments

WESA will introduce significant changes in this area, bringing state law more in line with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act regarding leave eligibility. Specifically, use of leave will be expanded to include everything from prenatal care to incapacity as a result of pregnancy, childbirth or related health conditions.

In addition, WESA will alter the rules governing the timing of leave such that it can start anytime within 12 months after a birth or adoption, or within 12 months after a child is discharged from the hospital in the event they must remain under care longer than their mother.

Most significantly, however, WESA will amend the Minnesota Parenting Leave Law such that unpaid leave for pregnancy and parenting is expanded from 6 weeks to 12 weeks.  

Accommodations for nursing mothers

WESA will require employers to establish a designated space for nursing mothers that is private -- shielded from view and free from interference -- and equipped with an electrical outlet. Furthermore, the designated space cannot be located in a bathroom stall or bathroom.

In addition, WESA sets forth a private right of action to hold employers accountable for violations of this section, authorizes the Department of Labor to enforce the aforementioned requirements, and expressly prohibits employers from taking retaliatory measures against employees who assert rights/remedies under this section.

Alterations to use of paid sick leave

WESA calls for the expansion of employer-provided sick leave such that it will now cover care for in-laws and grandchildren, as well as circumstances involving stalking, domestic abuse or sexual assault. It should be noted, however, that this provision does not mandate the provision of paid sick leave by employers.

While a complete discussion of all the forthcoming changes introduced by WESA is clearly beyond the scope of a single blog post, it's important for women to understand that they now have expanded protection under Minnesota law. As such, it's extremely important for them to consider speaking with an experienced legal professional if they believe they have been victimized by illegal employment practices or discriminated against in any capacity.

Source: The Office of Governor Mark Dayton, "Governor Dayton Signs Women’s Economic Security Act into law," May 11, 2014

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