Minnesota's New Women's Economic Security Act Becomes Law - Employers Need To Take Note As Some Provisions Are Effective Immediately

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On Mother’s Day, May 11, 2014, Governor Dayton signed Minnesota’s new Women’s Economic Security Act into law. Employers should take note of the following provisions, some of which are effective immediately:

Effective Immediately:

Pregnancy Accommodations

  • Requires reasonable accommodations, including more frequent restroom, food and water breaks, seating and lifting limits for pregnant employees, which accommodations are required to be provided to all pregnant employees under the law, without proof of medical necessity.
  • Employers are required to engage in the familiar interactive process with respect to other requests for accommodation, based on the advice of a licensed health care provider or certified doula.
  • The law specifically indicates that a temporary transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position may be required where other accommodations are not possible.
  • This law is part of Chapter 181 (not the Minnesota Human Rights Act), and is subject to the definitions therein, setting forth which employees and employers are covered by the law. For instance, this section only applies to employers with 21 or more employees, and employees are subject to minimum prior service and hours-worked requirements.

Changes to the Minnesota Human Rights Act

  • “Familial status” is a new protected class for purposes of employment.
  • “Familial status” is “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.” The prohibition against discrimination based on familial status also protects pregnant women and anyone “in the process of securing legal custody of an individual who has not attained the age of majority.”
  • Labor organizations, employers and employment agencies are all prohibited from discriminating on the basis of familial status. Employees and applicants cannot be required to provide information regarding their familial status.
  • Includes an appropriation for enforcement of the act.

Effective August 1, 2014:

Minnesota Parenting Leave Law

  • Amends the Minnesota Parenting Leave Law to provide 12 weeks of unpaid leave (up from 6) for pregnancy and parenting, and brings Minnesota law generally into accordance with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act with respect to eligibility for leave. Expands use of leave to cover prenatal care, incapacity due to pregnancy, childbirth, or related health conditions for female employees only.
  • Modifies requirements regarding timing of leave, which may now begin anytime within 12 months after the birth or adoption of a child, or within 12 months after the child leaves the hospital, if the child remains in the hospital longer than the mother.

Use of Paid Sick Leave

  • Expands use of employer-provided paid sick leave to cover care for an employee’s mother-in-law, father-in-law and grandchildren and in circumstances of domestic abuse, sexual assault and stalking.
  • This provision does not require employers to provide paid sick leave.

Nursing Mothers

  • Requires that space provided for nursing mothers must be shielded from view and free from intrusion, and include access to an electrical outlet. This space cannot be in a bathroom or bathroom stall.
  • Prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for asserting rights or remedies under this section.
  • Creates a private right of action for violations of the section and authorizes enforcement by the Department of Labor.

Wage Disclosure Protection

  • Prohibits employers from taking action against employees who disclose wage information.

Equal Pay Certification

  • Employers will be required to obtain an Equal Pay Certificate to execute a contractor agreement with the state in excess of $500,000.
  • Applies to businesses with 40 or more full-time employees in Minnesota or the state where the business has its primary place of business. The law contains an undue hardship provision.
  • Includes appropriations for enforcement of the provision.

Other Changes:

Unemployment Insurance

  • Amends Minnesota unemployment law to make it more likely that victims of sexual assault and stalking will qualify for benefits.
  • Provides unemployment compensation if “the applicant quit because domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking of the applicant or immediate family member of the applicant necessitated the applicant’s quitting employment.”
  • Defines employment misconduct to exclude employment misconduct that was a result of being a victim of sexual assault or stalking.
  • These provisions apply to determinations and appeal decisions issued on or after the effective date of October 5, 2014.

Grant Programs

  • Establishes grant programs to increase the number of women in high wage, high demand non-traditional occupations.
  • Establishes grant programs to promote the creation and expansion of women owned businesses.
  • These programs are one-time appropriations for fiscal year 2015.

Retirement Savings Plan

  • Requires a report by January 1, 2015 on the feasibility of a state-administered retirement savings plan available to employees without access to either an automatic enrollment payroll deduction IRA maintained or offered by their employer, or a multiemployer retirement plan or qualifying retirement plan.
  • While this section is effective immediately, there are no substantive changes that employers need to be aware of at this time.

Minnesota employers should revisit their employment policies to ensure that they comply with these provisions. This law may require changes to handbook policies or other employer rules regarding equal employment opportunity, workplace accommodations, break time, parenting leave and sick leave.

 

Topics:  Compliance, Employee Rights, Gender Discrimination, Paid Leave, Parental Leave, Pregnancy, Pregnancy Discrimination, Reasonable Accommodation, Sick Leave

Published In: Civil Rights Updates, Labor & Employment Updates

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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