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House passes Women's Economic Security Act aimed at improving wages and ending workplace discrimination

ST. PAUL, MN – Today the Minnesota House of Representatives passed the Women’s Economic Security Act (WESA), a major milestone toward signing into law new measures to close the gender pay gap, strengthen workplace protections and flexibility for pregnant mothers and expand employment opportunities for women in high-wage, high-demand professions. Rep. John Persell (DFL – Bemidji) voted in favor of the bill.

“Some of these issues go back more than 100 years,” said Persell. “Female workers deserve to have equal treatment and equal pay for equal work. In Minnesota, women still earn 80 cents for every dollar men earn in the same position. That pay difference isn’t an intentional choice. It’s the result of a lot of individual policies at the state level that were never changed when women became more prominent players in the workplace. It’s time we made those changes.”

The Women’s Economic Security Act is meant to address those kinds of barriers, helping to fuel Minnesota’s positive economic momentum and make sure more Minnesotans share in the benefits of the recovery. Rep. Roger Erickson (DFL – Baudette) is happy to see the act passed.

“The provisions in this bill are aimed at putting women and men on equal footing in the workplace,” said Erickson. “With more and more women serving as the primary bread winners in our households, income inequality starts to have more and more of an impact on our economy as a whole. Improving wages and working conditions for women is good for those individual women, it’s good for their families, and it’s good for our economy.”

The omnibus package that passed out of the House today includes bills that would:

Allow mothers to stay in the workforce by expanding family leave and providing reasonable accommodations for pregnant and nursing employees

• HF 2371: Expands unpaid leave under the Minnesota Parental Leave Act from 6 to 12 weeks and allows use of leave under the Parental Leave Act for pregnancy-related needs. It also requires employers with more than 21 employees to provide reasonable minor accommodations (seating, limits to heavy lifting) for pregnant workers.

• HF 2259: Provides enforcement of workplace protections for nursing mothers to express breast milk during unpaid break times.

Expand access to high-quality, affordable childcare

• Removes the $5,000 cap on early learning scholarships.

Decrease the gender pay gap through the participation of women in high-wage, high-demand nontraditional work

• HF 2291: Expands support for employers; workforce organizations; and others to recruit, prepare, place and retain women in nontraditional occupations and apprenticeships, especially low income and older women.

• HF 2243: Supports the development of high economic impact women-owned businesses in nontraditional industries.

Reduce the gender pay gap through increased enforcement of equal pay laws for state contractors and by allowing employees to discuss pay inequities

• HF 2373: Requires businesses with more than 50 employees seeking state contracts over $500,000 to ensure compliance with existing equal pay laws. Businesses must state that average compensation for female employees is not consistently below average compensation for male employees within similar major job categories.

• HF 2274: Allows employees to voluntarily discuss their compensation without fear of retaliation from their employers.

Decrease the gender pay gap by providing equal employment opportunities for family caregivers and reducing the “motherhood penalty”

• HF 2300: Requires equal employment treatment regardless of “family caregiver status” or “familial status.”

• HF 2461: Allows grandparents to use existing earned sick leave to care for an ill or injured grandchild.

Address economic consequences of domestic violence, stalking, and sexual assault

• HF 2366: Expands unemployment insurance eligibility currently available to victims of domestic violence to include victims of stalking and sexual assault.

• HF 2461: Allows employees to use existing earned sick leave to deal with sexual assault, domestic violence, or stalking.

Enhance retirement security by considering a state retirement savings plan for those without an employer-provided option

• HF 2419 : Requires a report from Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) on the potential for a state-administered plan for workers without access to workplace retirement savings plans; along with other alternative private sector options.


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Rendered 07/16/2024 18:56