Women's Economic Security Act FAQs
The Women's Economic Security Act (WESA) strengthens workplace protections and flexibility for pregnant women and nursing mothers, expands employment opportunities for women in high-wage, high-demand occupations and reduces the gender pay gap through increased enforcement of equal pay laws.
New law changes
Effective Jan. 1, 2022, workplace protections for expectant and new parents will be expanded. Changes include:
Requiring nursing and lactating employees to receive paid break time to express milk at work. The change does not require current unpaid break time such as a meal break to be converted to paid break time.
Ensuring more employees 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.
WESA annual report
WESA annual report (December 2020)
Are all Minnesota employers required to include notice of the Wage Disclosure Protection law in their employee handbook?
Yes, every Minnesota employer must comply with the new Wage Disclosure Protection law in the Women's Economic Security Act. Under this law, no employer can prohibit employees from disclosing their own wages. (See Minnesota Statutes 181.172.)
Employers that provide an employee handbook to their employees must include in the handbook a notice of employee rights and remedies under the Wage Disclosure Protection law. The following is a sample notice to employees.
Notice to employees: Under the Minnesota Wage Disclosure Protection law, you have the right to tell any person the amount of your own wages. Your employer cannot retaliate against you for disclosing your own wages. Your remedies under the Wage Disclosure Protection law are to bring a civil action against your employer and/or file a complaint with the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry at 651-284-5070 or 800-342-5354.
Pregnancy and parental leave
Are all employees who become parents eligible to receive pregnancy and parental leave?
No, an employer must provide at least 12 weeks of unpaid pregnancy and parental leave to an employee if:
the employer has at least 21 employees at one site;
the employee has worked for the employer for at least 12 months before requesting the leave (not required to be consecutive); and
the employee worked at least half-time during the 12 months immediately preceding the leave.
Are employees who take pregnancy and parental leave entitled to the same job after returning from leave?
Yes, employees are entitled to return to their former positions or to positions of comparable duties, number of hours and pay.
Is an employee entitled to use pregnancy and parental leave in addition to Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave?
No, Minnesota pregnancy and parental leave runs concurrent to FMLA leave. However, if an employee takes FMLA leave for unrelated reasons (such as a back injury not caused by the pregnancy), the employee will still be entitled to 12 weeks of leave for pregnancy-related illness and parental leave in that same year.
If the employee uses paid vacation or sick time for part of the time off for the birth of a child or for health conditions related to the pregnancy, is the employee entitled to an additional 12 weeks of unpaid pregnancy and parental leave?
No, the employer is not required to allow more than a total of 12 weeks of leave related to the pregnancy and childbirth, including both paid and unpaid leave.
When can an employee take parental leave?
An employee must begin the 12 weeks of parental leave within 12 months of the birth or adoption of a child. An exception is made if a child must remain in the hospital longer than the mother, in which case the leave must begin within 12 months after the child leaves the hospital.
How much notice must an employee provide an employer when requesting pregnancy and parental leave?
An employer may require an employee to provide reasonable notice of the date the leave will begin and the estimated length of the leave.
How can an employee use the 12 weeks of pregnancy and parental leave?
An employee can take the 12 weeks of leave consecutively or intermittently, provided the leave begins within 12 months of the birth or adoption of a child.
Can an employee request more than 12 weeks of pregnancy and parental leave?
The Women's Economic Security Act only requires 12 weeks of unpaid pregnancy and parental leave; however, it is up to the employer whether to grant employees additional unpaid leave. If additional unpaid leave is provided by the employer, employees are still entitled to their job after the approved leave time is completed.
Who should employees call if they believe they qualify for leave but are not being allowed to take the leave?
Employees who believe they are entitled to leave but are not receiving the leave should contact the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry at 651-284-5070 or 800-342-5354 to get more information about whether they qualify and/or to make a complaint.
Who should employees call if they believe they are being discriminated against because they are pregnant?
Some employees may not qualify for pregnancy and parental leave under the Women's Economic Security Act. In these cases, it is recommended an employee who is retaliated against or terminated for pregnancy-related issues contact the Minnesota Department of Human Rights for possible pregnancy or sexual discrimination claims at https://mn.gov/mdhr/, 651-539-1100 or 800-657-3704.
For more information, see the parental leave and FMLA FAQs.
Sick and safe leave
Is every employee entitled to sick and safe leave for care of relatives?
No, an employer is only required to provide sick and safe leave if:
the employer provides sick leave benefits for the employee's own illness or injury;
the employer has at least 21 employees at one site;
the employee has worked for the employer for at least 12 months before requesting the leave; and
the employee worked at least half-time during the 12 months immediately before the leave.
When is an employer required to allow an employee to use sick leave to take care of a sick family member?
If an employer provides sick leave benefits to an employee for his or her own use, the employer must provide sick leave to the employee to care for a sick family member. This includes compensation for time taken to care for a sick family member if the employee is paid for his or her own sick days. If the employer does not provide sick leave benefits for the employee at all, then the employer is not required to provide leave for an employee to care for a sick family member.
Who is considered a family member under this law?
"Family member" under this law means a child, adult child, spouse, sibling, parent, mother-in-law, father-in-law, grandchild, grandparent or step-parent. "Child" includes a biological child, step-child, foster child or adopted child.
What does "safe" mean in sick and safe leave?
Sick and safe leave means that if an employer provides sick leave time, the employer must also allow its employees to use that time off to receive assistance related to sexual assault, domestic abuse or stalking. The employee can also use the sick leave benefits to provide assistance to a family member who is the victim of sexual assault, domestic abuse or stalking. The family member must be one of the relatives listed in the answer to the question above.
How much sick and safe leave must employers give employees?
If the employee has sick leave benefits available for his or her own injury or illness, the employer must allow for a reasonable period of time as may be necessary to care for the employee's relative. An employer may not limit the use of sick and safe leave benefits for family members to fewer than 160 hours in any 12-month period. This limit on the use of sick and safe leave benefits to care for sick family members does not apply to the employee's minor children.
Do the pregnancy accommodation requirements apply to all employers?
No, the pregnancy accommodation requirements only apply to employers that employ 21 or more employees at one site. Effective January 1, 2022, the law will apply to employers with 15 or more employees. Discrimination because of pregnancy is prohibited regardless of the employer’s size.
What employees are entitled to pregnancy accommodations?
Any employee who needs an accommodation related to pregnancy or childbirth may be entitled to accommodations, provided they work for an employer that employs 21 or more employees at one site. Effective January 1, 2022, the law will apply to employers with 15 or more employees.
The Minnesota Court of Appeals recently held in Hinrichs-Cady v. City of Minneapolis that employees who seek accommodations related to pregnancy and childbirth do not have to meet the 12-month tenure requirement that applies to employees who take pregnancy and parenting leave, as discussed above.
What accommodations must an employer provide to an employee who is pregnant?
A pregnant employee is entitled to these accommodations without having to provide a note from a doctor or any other "proof" that the accommodation is necessary:
more frequent restroom breaks or food and water breaks;
seating arrangements; and
a limit of lifting more than 20 pounds.
In addition to providing the three accommodations listed above, an employer must actively engage with an employee to find other ways to accommodate her during her pregnancy, provided the accommodation does not pose any undue hardship on the employer.
The employer cannot require a pregnant employee to accept any of these accommodations if she does not want them.
What is the best way to ensure my company is abiding by the laws under the Women's Economic Security Act?
It is a good idea for employers to update employee handbooks to reflect all changes in the law since the enactment of WESA. Questions can be directed to the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry at 651-284-5070 or 800-342-5354.
Does the employer have to be a certain size before it is required to comply with the nursing mother law?
No, the size of the employer does not matter for the nursing mother law. If the employer has just one employee, the employer is required to comply with this law.
What does the nursing mother law require?
An employer of any size must provide reasonable, unpaid break time each day to any employee who needs to express milk for her child.
Can an employer require an employee to make up time for breaks taken to express milk at work?
Under current law, breaks to express milk are unpaid, however, effective January 1, 2022, an employer cannot reduce an employee’s compensation for time taken to express milk. While breaks must, where possible, run concurrently with breaks already provided, including existing unpaid breaks, employers can’t reduce an employee's pay or require an employee to make up time used to express milk as of January 1, 2022.
Can an employer require an employee to use paid leave benefits such as sick time, vacation or paid time off for time used to express milk?
Effective Jan. 1, 2022, an employer may not reduce an employee's compensation for time used for the purpose of expressing milk. Compensation includes earned or accrued leave benefits.
What type of space must the employer provide for an employee to express milk?
The space provided to express milk must:
be in close proximity to the work area;
be a room other than a bathroom or toilet stall;
be shielded from view;
be free from intrusion from coworkers and the public; and
include access to an electrical outlet.
Who should an employee call if she is not being provided time or space to express milk at work?
For help with these requirements, the employee should call the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry at 651-284-5070 or 800-342-5354.
For more information
Contact us at email@example.com, 651-284-5075 or 800-342-5354.