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August 11, 2021

Governor Tim Walz recently signed legislation into state law that strengthens workplace protections for new and expectant parents.

The new law expands provisions of the Women's Economic Security Act (WESA), which was passed in 2014 to strengthen workplace protections and flexibility for expectant and new parents, among other priorities.

The changes, which go into effect Jan. 1, 2022, include the following.

  • Nursing and lactating employees are required to receive paid break time to express milk at work. The change does not require current unpaid break time, such as a meal breaks, to be converted to paid break time.

  • More employees now have a right to request and receive needed pregnancy accommodations in the workplace, such as more frequent restroom, food and water breaks, and limits to heavy lifting. This change will apply to employers with 15 or more employees.

"I am proud of this legislation, which gets our state closer to our vision of making Minnesota the best place for each and every child to grow up," said Governor Walz. "Support for working families will keep our economy strong and serve as an investment in our future."

"No one should have to choose between their jobs and their family," said Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan. "It makes a huge difference to have paid breaks to support breastfeeding and pregnancy accommodations that start on your very first day. These new workplace protections help ensure employers are providing positive and supportive environments for new parents in the workforce. It just makes good sense."

"This new law is a win-win for expectant and new parents, their children and Minnesota employers," said Commissioner Roslyn Robertson, Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (DLI). "More pregnant employees will be able to request and receive a needed accommodation, allowing them to work safely and continue to earn a paycheck to support their growing families."

Due to the law change, an estimated 27,000 more workers in Minnesota will be able to request and receive a pregnancy accommodation in the workplace.

"Returning to work is a common reason that parents stop breastfeeding, so workplace changes like this new law are a great way to support Minnesota mothers so they and their children can breastfeed longer and get the many health benefits of breastfeeding," said Commissioner Jan Malcolm, Minnesota Department of Health.

Evidence shows parents who breastfeed have a reduced risk of several types of cancer, including breast and ovarian. They also have a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and postpartum depression. Babies who are breastfed have a reduced risk of ear infections, diarrhea, sudden infant death, obesity, diabetes, asthma and leukemia.

DLI encourages workers and employers to review their workplace rights and responsibilities under the Women’s Economic Security Act. Visit www.dli.mn.gov/newparents to review DLI resources for expectant and new parents or contact DLI’s Labor Standards at dli.laborstandards@state.mn.us or 651-284-5075.