May 29, 2014

Employment News Gender Discrimination Marital Status Discrimination Pregnancy Discrimination

Women’s Economic Security Act Now Minnesota Law

In another Minnesota legislative victory, Governor Dayton signed the Women’s Economic Security Act into law. WESA offers a broad stroke of legislative improvements towards economic progress for women, including a number of changes to Minnesota employment laws. It addresses the needs of women in the workplace, aims to prevent discrimination, bolsters economic opportunities, and supports female business owners.

Here are some of the legislative and economic improvements that women in Minnesota can look forward to:

Equal pay for women: WESA aims to close the gender pay gap by requiring businesses with more than 40 employees that have state contracts of $500,000 or more to ensure compliance and equal pay. It also provides additional protections to prevent retaliation for discussion of compensation and increases the minimum wage for working women to $9.50. WESA provides incentives to integrate women into high-skill, high-wage, and nontraditional jobs. It will support and establish a pilot project to support women’s entrepreneurial endeavors in industries that have been traditionally male-dominated.

Benefits for working mothers: Working mothers will also benefit from WESA’s expansion of access to high-quality and affordable child care. It removes the $5,000 cap on scholarships and eliminates a wait list for the Basic Sliding Fee program so that it can serve all eligible families. The law also increases reimbursement rates for child care providers who participate in the Child Care Assistance Program. WESA mandates that employers must provide paid sick and leave allowing workers to earn 1 hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked. Unpaid leave under the Minnesota Parental Leave Act will also be expanded from 6 to 12 weeks and will cover pregnancies, as well as sick leave for care of in-laws.

Protections against discrimination: WESA will offer broad protections to prevent discrimination against women, including adding “family caregiver status” and “familial status” to the list of protected classes in the workplace. This prevents employers from discriminating against a woman with children or from taking adverse action against a woman who has caregiving responsibilities. Working mothers will also have additional protections while nursing young children. Employers with 21 or more employees must provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees, including breaks and the ability to change positions.

Enhanced protections for special groups: Victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking will now be able to use paid leave to obtain support and services. The law will expand unemployment insurance eligibility to protect victims of violence or assault. In addition to protecting victims of domestic abuse and violence, the law will also extend protections to elderly women. The law protects spouse caregivers from financial hardship through updates under Minnesota’s Medicaid program. It will allow private small sector employees who do not have an employer-sponsored retirement plan to pool into a state-managed program called the Minnesota Retirement Savings Plan.

These legislative advancements aim to improve economic security and success for women throughout Minnesota. Despite state and federal laws, many women continue to suffer from injustices or illegal misconduct in their employment. When faced with a workplace dispute or challenge, or if you have suffered pregnancy discrimination or sexual harassment, we can help. For more information about WESA or to discuss your case, please contact Wanta Thome PLC attorneys by calling 612-252-3570 for a free consultation.