Women’s Economic Security Act Approved
Earlier today, the Minnesota Senate approved the Women’s Economic Security Act (WESA), a collection of nine bills to provide equal employment opportunities and pay for women. WESA seeks various policy changes, including requiring businesses contracting with the state to develop pay equity studies, extending pregnancy and parental leave, expanding the usage of sick leave benefits, protecting women from workplace discrimination and domestic violence, and encouraging women to enter non-traditional and high-wage jobs. The following bills have been incorporated into WESA:
- S.F. 2274 (FRANZEN) Adds an advisor with expertise in assisting women in obtaining employment in nontraditional occupations to the governor’s Workforce Development Council. DEED would be provided $500,000 to be awarded as grants to organizations that assist women in obtaining high-wage and high-demand nontraditional jobs. DOLI is allocated $250,000 from the Workforce Development Fund to support women in entering apprenticeship programs in nontraditional occupations. ($24,000 is allocated to DOLI from the General Fund for compliance and enforcement of the WESA Act.)
- S.F. 2158 (JENSEN) Establishes a grant program for business development and female entrepreneurs. The bill appropriates $500,000 in 2015 to the commissioner of DEED for grants to high-growth, high-revenue, women-owned or controlled businesses.
- S.F. 1806 (PAPPAS) Requires businesses with 40 or more employees bidding on state contracts over $500,000 to obtain an equal pay certificate of compliance from the Department of Human Rights to ensure companies are in compliance with existing equal pay laws.
- S.F. 2078 (PAPPAS) Funds a study to be completed by MMB to determine the feasibility of creating a state-administered retirement savings plan for private employees not offered pensions by their employers. Since women live longer than men and generally receive less pay, they are more likely to exhaust retirement savings. $750,000 one-time appropriation in 2015.
- S.F. 1999 (GOODWIN) Bans discrimination or retaliation against an employee who inquires into or compares wage information. Employers may not prohibit employees from disclosing their wages as a condition of employment, but employers also are not required to disclose wage information when requested.
- S.F. 2000 (SHERAN) Increases the accommodations for nursing mothers in the workplace by requiring employers to provide a facility other than a bathroom for them to express milk. An employer is prohibited from retaliating against an employee for requesting accommodation under this law. The Department of Labor and Industry is able to enforce the provision through fines of up to $2,000.
- S.F. 1956 (SIEBEN) Provides a person who has a child or is incapacitated as a result of pregnancy to take unpaid leave from 6 weeks up to 12 weeks. Employers would be able to require employees to provide reasonable notice regarding when they plan to take leave. Employers are prohibited from retaliating against an employee for requesting or obtaining leave.
- S.F. 2006 (WIKLUND) Expands the allowable uses of sick leave for employees to include caring for grandchildren and providing or receiving assistance because of sexual assault, domestic abuse, or stalking. This was originally a proposal to create paid sick/safe leave for all Minnesota workers.
- S.F. 2111 (EKEN) Allows individuals who have quit their job as a result of documented sexual assault to be eligible for unemployment benefits. Typically, employees who quit their job are not eligible for unemployment benefits. This bill will help those impacted by sexual assault find new employment and receive the services they need.