Minnesota Passes Women’s Economic Security Act

On Sunday, May 11th, 2014, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signed into law the Women’s Economic Security Act (the “Act”).  Intended to improve working conditions and pay for women in the workplace,  the Act modifies numerous employment laws related to wage, sick leave, parenting leave and workplace protections for pregnant women and nursing mothers.  The Act will significantly impact Minnesota businesses.

Over the coming weeks, as part of a series of informational entries on this new law,  I will provide detailed analyses of the specific changes the Act makes to current Minnesota employment law and how they will impact employers across the state.  Today, I’ll summarize the key components of the Women’s Economic Security Act.

The following is a list of the Act’s modifications to Minnesota employment laws:

1. Unemployment Insurance Expansion

The Act expands the availability for unemployment insurance to victims of sexual assault or stalking and diminishes the threshold for extending unemployment insurance to victims of domestic abuse.

2. Equal Pay Certification for State Contracts

The Act requires any business with 40 or more full-time employees in Minnesota or the state where the business has its primary place of business on any single day in the previous 12 months to provide an “equal pay certificate” certifying its compliance with Minnesota’s equal pay laws as a condition for entering into any contract or agreement in excess of $500,000 with the State of Minnesota or any agency of the state or Metropolitan Council.

3. Pregnancy and Parenting Leave Expansion

The Act requires Minnesota employers with 21 or more employees to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for eligible employees.

4. Sick Leave and Care of Relatives Expansion.

The Act expands Minnesota’s Sick Leave Act and permits employees to use existing personal sick leave benefits to care for an employee’s mother-in-law, father-in-law, or grandchild. Additionally, the Act will permit employees to use existing personal sick leave benefits for the purpose of providing or receiving assistance because of sexual assault, domestic abuse or stalking, otherwise defined as “safety leave.”

5. Pregnancy Accommodation Requirements.

The Act requires Minnesota employers with 21 or more employees to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees for health conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth and to engage in an interactive process with any pregnant employee who requests accommodations.

6. Wage Disclosure Protection.

The Act prohibits Minnesota employers from requiring non-disclosure by an employee of his or her wages as a condition of employment, requiring an employee to sign a waiver or other document purporting to deny an employee the right to disclose his or her wages, or taking any adverse employment action against an employee for disclosing the employee’s own wages or discussing another employee’s wages which have been voluntarily disclosed. The Act also requires employers with Employment Handbooks or Manuals to include a notice of their rights and remedies related to wage disclosure protection.

7. Expanded Protections for Nursing Mothers.

The Act requires employers to make reasonable efforts to provide a room or other location in close proximity to the work area, other than a bathroom or a toilet stall, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public and that includes access to an electrical outlet where the employee can express breast milk in privacy.

8. Minnesota Human Rights Act Expansion.

The Act expands the Minnesota Human Rights Act by including “familial status” as a protected class. The Minnesota Human Rights Act now prohibits employment discrimination based on “familial status.”

The Women’s Economic Security Act significantly changes Minnesota employment law, with many of the modifications becoming effective today (May 12, 2014). Minnesota employers should contact their employment law counsel as soon as possible to gain an understanding of the Act and what new practices must be implemented to ensure compliance.


About the Author

Michael McCain is the lead employment law attorney at Eckberg Lammers. Mike exclusively represents businesses and management in labor, employment, and business law matters. He may be reached at 651-439-2878 or mmccain@eckberglammers.com.

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