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2014 Minnesota Legislative Session Update: Just Signed Into Law - The Women's Economic Security Act
May 29, 2014

The Women’s Economic Security Act was signed into law on May 11, 2014. The Act provides the following new rights and protections for employees. You can read the individual sections by clicking on the links below.

* Parenting Leave
* Sick Leave Benefits and Care of Relatives
* Pregnancy Accommodations
* Wage Disclosure
* Nursing Mothers
* Discrimination Expanded to Include Familial Status
* Equal Pay Certificate
* Eligibility for Unemployment Expanded to Include Sexual Assault and Stalking

1. Parenting Leave Expanded (Amends Minn. Stat. § 181.941):

    • Law applies to employers with 21 or more employees at one site.
    • The current law requires an employer to grant an unpaid leave of absence of up to 6 weeks to an employee for the birth or adoption of a child.
    • The amended law expands the length of leave from 6 weeks to 12 weeks and allows leave for prenatal care or incapacity due to pregnancy, childbirth, or related health conditions. Accordingly, the amended law requires an employer to grant an unpaid leave of absence of up to 12 weeks to (1) a biological or adoptive parent in conjunction with the birth or adoption of a child, or (2) a female employee for prenatal care or incapacity due to pregnancy, childbirth, or related health conditions. 
    • The law amends the definition of "employee" in Minn. Stat. 181.940. The current definition of "employee" requires an employee to perform services for "at least 12 consecutive months immediately preceding the request." The amended law deletes the words “consecutive” and “immediately." Therefore, an employee only needs to work 12 months before the leave. 
    • Effective July 1, 2014.
Recommendations: Review and revise (if necessary) the employee handbook to include the changes in the law. Provide training to managers and human resources personnel so they are aware of and understand the law.

2. Sick Leave Benefits and Care of Relatives Expanded (Amends Minn. Stat. § 181.9413):
    • Law applies to employers with 21 or more employees at one site. 
    • The current law permits an employee to use personal sick leave benefits for absences due to an illness of or injury to the employee’s child, adult child, spouse, sibling, parent, grandparent, or stepparent for reasonable periods of time as the employee’s attendance may be necessary on the same terms upon which the employee is able to use sick leave benefits for the employee’s own illness or injury.
    • The amended law permits an employee to use personal sick leave benefits for absences due to an illness of or injury to the employee’s mother-in-law, father-in-law, and grandchild (that includes a step-grandchild and a biological, adopted, and foster grandchild).
    • The amended law  allows an employee to use sick leave for "safety leave" which is leave for the purpose of providing or receiving assistance because of sexual assault, domestic abuse, or stalking. Safety leave may be used for assistance to the employee or an employee’s covered relative.
    • An employer may limit the use of safety leave or personal sick leave benefits for absences due to an illness of or injury to the employee’s adult child, spouse, sibling, parent, mother-in-law, father-in-law, grandchild, grandparent, or stepparent to no less than 160 hours in any 12-month period.
    • An employer is prohibited from retaliating against an employee for requesting or obtaining a leave of absence under the law.
    • Effective July 1, 2014.
Recommendations: Review and revise the employee handbook to include the additional relatives covered under the law and to allow for safety leave. Provide training to managers and human resources personnel so they are aware of and understand the law.

3. Pregnancy Accommodations (Creates Minn. Stat. § 181.9414):
    • Law applies to employers with 21 or more employees at one site.
    • An employer is required to provide reasonable accommodations to an employee for health related conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth if she requests, with the advice of her licensed health care provider or certified doula. 
    • An employer is not required to provide reasonable accommodation if it demonstrates that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the employer’s business.
    • An employer is required to engage in an interactive process with the employee with respect to the employee’s request for a reasonable accommodation. Examples of reasonable accommodations may include temporary transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position, seating, frequent restroom breaks, and limits to heavy lifting.
    • An employer is not required to create a new or additional position in order to accommodate an employee. In addition, an employer is not required to discharge any employee, transfer any other employee with greater seniority, or promote any employee.
    • A pregnant employee is not required to obtain the advice of her licensed health care provider or certified doula and an employer cannot claim undue hardship for the following accommodations: (1) more frequent restroom, food, and water breaks; (2) seating; and (3) limits on lifting over 20 pounds.
    • An employer is prohibited from retaliating against an employee for requesting or obtaining an accommodation.
    • Effective immediately.
Recommendations: Review and revise (if necessary) the employee handbook to provide notice to employees that they may receive reasonable accommodation for pregnancy. Provide training to managers and human resources personnel so they are aware of and understand the law.

4. Wage Disclosure Protection (Creates Minn. Stat. § 181.172):
    • An employer is prohibited from:
      1. Requiring nondisclosure by an employee of his or her wages as a condition of employment; 
      2. Requiring an employee to sign a waiver or other document which purports to deny an employee the right to disclose the employee’s wages; or
      3. Taking any adverse employment action against an employee for disclosing the employee’s own wages or discussing another employee’s wages which have been disclosed voluntarily.
    • The law does not permit an employee to disclose proprietary information, trade secret information, or information that is subject to a legal privilege or protected by law without the employer’s written consent. In addition, the law does not permit an employee to disclose wage information of other employees to a competitor of their employer.
    • An employer that provides an employee handbook is required to include a notice of employee rights and remedies of this law in the employee handbook.
    • An employer is prohibited from retaliating against an employee for asserting rights or remedies under the law.
    • The Division of Labor Standards and Apprenticeship receives complaints of employees and will investigate informally whether an employer may be in violation of the law. The division will attempt to resolve employee complaints by informing employees and employers of the provisions of the law and directing employers to comply with the law. 
    • An employee may bring a civil action against the employer for certain violations of the law. If a court finds that an employer has violated the law, the court may order reinstatement, back pay, restoration of lost service credit, and the expungement of any related adverse records of an employee who was the subject of the violation.
    • In addition to any other remedies provided by law, a person injured by a violation may bring a civil action to recover any and all damages recoverable at law, together with costs and disbursements, including reasonable attorney’s fees, and may receive injunctive and other equitable relief as determined by a court.
    • Effective July 1, 2014.
Recommendations: Review and revise the employee handbook to include the notice of employee rights and remedies. Review and revise (if necessary) other documents to ensure they do not require an employee to deny the right to disclose his/her wages. Provide training to managers and human resources personnel so they are aware of and understand the law.

5. Nursing Mothers (Amends Minn. Stat. § 181.939):
    • The current law requires an employer to make reasonable efforts to provide a room or other location, in close proximity to the work area, other than a toilet stall, where the employee can express her breast milk. 
    • The amended law requires an employer to make reasonable efforts to provide a room or other location that is not a bathroom and is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public and includes access to an electrical outlet.
    • An employer is prohibited from retaliating against an employee for asserting rights or remedies under the law. 
    • The Division of Labor Standards and Apprenticeship receives complaints of employees and will investigate informally whether an employer may be in violation of the law. The division will attempt to resolve employee complaints by informing employees and employers of the provisions of the law and directing employers to comply with the law. 
    • In addition to any other remedies provided by law, a person injured by a violation may bring a civil action to recover any and all damages recoverable at law, together with costs and disbursements, including reasonable attorney’s fees, and may receive injunctive and other equitable relief as determined by a court.
    • Effective July 1, 2014.
Recommendations: Review and revise (if necessary) the employee handbook to notify employees of their rights under the law. Examine the room to ensure it complies with the new requirements. Provide training to managers and human resources personnel so they are aware of and understand the law.

6. Discrimination Expanded to Include Familial Status (Amends the Minnesota Human Rights Act):
    • The amended law prohibits employment discrimination based on familial status.
    • The Minnesota Human Rights Act defines "familial status" to mean "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." In addition, the Act states the "protections afforded against discrimination on the basis of family status apply to any person who is pregnant or is in the process of securing legal custody of an individual who has not attained the age of majority."
    • Effective immediately. 
Recommendations: Review and revise the employee handbook to include familial status as a protected class. Provide training to managers and human resources personnel so they are aware of and understand the law.

7. Equal Pay Certificate Required for State Contracts (Creates Minn. Stat. § 363A.44):
    • This new law prohibits a state department or agency from executing a contract or agreement in excess of $500,000 with a business that has 40 or more full-time employees in Minnesota or a state where the business has its primary place of business on a single day during the prior 12 months, unless the business has an equal pay certificate or it has certified in writing that it is exempt.
    • A business applies for an equal pay certificate by paying a $150 filing fee and submitting an equal pay compliance statement to the commissioner of human rights. The chairperson of the board or chief executive officer of the business must sign a statement indicating the following: 
      1. The business is in compliance with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Equal Pay Act of 1963, Minnesota Human Rights Act, and Minnesota Equal Pay for Equal Work Law;
      2. The average compensation for its female employees is not consistently below the average compensation for its male employees within each of the major job categories in the EEO-1 employee information report for which an employee is expected to perform work under the contract, taking into account factors such as length of service, requirements of specific jobs, experience, skill, effort, responsibility, working conditions of the job, or other mitigating factors;
      3. The business does not restrict employees of one sex to certain job classifications and makes retention and promotion decisions without regard to sex;
      4. Wage and benefit disparities are corrected when identified to ensure compliance with the laws cited in clause (1) and with clause (2); and
      5. How often wages and benefits are evaluated to ensure compliance with the laws cited in clause (1) and with clause (2).
    • A certificate is valid for four years.
    • Effective August 1, 2014.
Recommendations: Review whether there are any state contracts that require an equal pay certificate. Audit pay policies and practices to ensure compliance with the equal pay compliance statement.

8. Eligibility for Unemployment Expanded to Include Sexual Assault and Stalking (Amends Minn. Stat. § 268.095):
    • The amended law allows an applicant who quit employment to be eligible for unemployment benefits if the applicant quit because domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking of the applicant or an immediate family member of the applicant necessitated the applicant's quitting the employment.
    • The amended law adds that "conduct that was a consequence of the applicant, or an immediate family member of the applicant, being a victim of domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking" is not "employment misconduct." 
    • Effective October 5, 2014.
We Can Help
Please contact a member of Maslon's Labor & Employment Group if you have questions or would like to discuss how recent law changes affect you.





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