While many of us were out enjoying the Mother's Day holiday with our families last weekend, history was being made in St. Paul where Governor Mark Dayton officially signed the Women's Economic Security Act into law.
The measure, which many believe will serve as a trendsetter for other states, is designed to not only eliminate the pay gap between men and women, but also eliminate longstanding obstacles to both economic progress and career advancement for women throughout the state.
“It should not require a law to ensure that women are treated fairly in the workplace, or that they are paid equally for their work," said Governor Dayton. "However, too many women still experience serious economic disparities, unfair gender barriers, and other workplace discrimination in our state. For all of them, this law is vitally important and long overdue."
In today's post, the first in a series, we'll take a brief look at some of the more significant provisions of WESA that took effect immediately upon Governor Dayton's signature.
Minnesota Human Rights Act amendments
WESA calls for the creation of a new protected class -- "familial status" -- as it relates to employment. Here, familial status is defined as the following: "the condition of one or more minors being domiciled with 1) their parent or parents or the minor's legal guardian or 2) the designee of the parent or parents or guardian with the written permission of the parent or parents or guardian.”
These protections based on familial status also apply to pregnant women and anyone else who is currently in the seeking to secure legal custody of a minor.
Finally, the law dictates that employment agencies, labor organizations and employers are all expressly prohibited from discrimination based on familial status, while neither applicants nor employees may be required to provide information based on their familial status.
Accommodations for pregnancy
WESA requires employers to provide the following reasonable accommodations to all pregnant employees regardless of whether proof of medical necessity is provided: limits on seating and lifting, and more frequent breaks for food, water and the restroom.
Furthermore, it expressly states when other special accommodations are not possible, a temporary transfer to a less hazardous and/or demanding position may be required.
It should be noted, however, that the law also states that these provisions are part of Chapter 181 of the Minnesota Statutes, meaning they are subject to its various definitions, including those establishing limitations as to which employers and employees are covered by reasonable accommodations.
In our next post, we'll take a closer look at some of the WESA provisions that are scheduled to take effect starting August 1.
Consider speaking with an experienced legal professional if you would like to learn more about your rights and your options concerning such topics as employee rights, workplace discrimination or wrongful termination.
Source: The Office of Governor Mark Dayton, "Governor Dayton Signs Women’s Economic Security Act into law," May 11, 2014