Note: This article has been updated to include further guidance regarding the effective date of certain provisions of the Women’s Economic Security Act.

The Women’s Economic Security Act, recently signed into law by Governor Mark Dayton and designed to make economic progress achievable for Minnesota’s women, makes a number of changes to existing laws, creating or expanding legal protections for women.

In light of these substantial changes to Minnesota law, Minnesota employers should revisit their current policies and practices, to ensure that they comply with the Women’s Economic Security Act, and that any other implications of the new laws have been considered. Employers may also need to update their current employee handbooks, including any policies on parenting leave, equal opportunity employment, and workplace accommodations in light of these changes to the law.

UPDATE: Since the Act was signed into law, some debate has arisen as to the effective dates of several provisions in the Act. Though the law was silent on the effective dates of these provisions, the Office of the Revisor of Statutes is interpreting the effective date of these provisions to be July 1, 2014, rather than August 1, 2014, as previously believed. As the debate is still ongoing, we advise Minnesota employers to comply with the Act by July 1, 2014.

Below are the updated effective dates, taking into account the new guidance. Please let us know if have any questions as you update your policies and procedures to comply with this law.

Effective immediately, the Women’s Economic Security Act:

  • Requires employers with 21 or more employees to provide reasonable accommodations for health conditions relating to pregnancy upon request, such as more frequent restroom, food, and water breaks; seating; and limits on lifting over 20 pounds.
  • Amends the Minnesota Human Rights Act to protect job applicants from being discriminated against based on their “familial status,” which means whether a minor lives with them, they are pregnant, or they are securing legal custody of a minor.

Effective July 1, 2014, the Women’s Economic Security Act:

  • For employers with 21 or more employees, expands pregnancy and parenting leave under the Minnesota Parental Leave Act from 6 weeks to 12 weeks, and requires that the leave may be used for pregnancy-related needs.
  • For employers with 21 or more employees, permits employees to use sick leave benefits to care for illnesses of the employee’s mother in-law, father in-law, grandchildren, or step-grandchildren.
  • For employers with 21 or more employees, permits employees to use available paid time off for “safety leave,” a new type of leave that allows employees to provide assistance to relatives who are the victims of sexual assaults, domestic abuse, or stalking.
  • Requires all employers to provide unpaid break time and a private space (not a restroom) for nursing activities.
  • Prohibits all employers from requiring employees to maintain their wage information as private or confidential, and further prohibits all employers from taking adverse action against employees who disclose their wage information.

Effective August 1, 2014, the Women’s Economic Security Act:

  • Requires that, with certain exceptions, businesses with more than 40 employees seeking contracts of at least $500,000 with the state must first obtain an “equal pay certificate of compliance” in order to do business with the state.

If you have any questions about the Women’s Economic Security Act or other employment-related issues, please feel free to contact the attorneys in our Employment practice group.