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Images of pregnant employees and new parents at work

Are you pregnant or a new parent?

In Minnesota, you have legal protections to help keep you safe and healthy in the workplace. If you have questions, speak up. Most employers are willing to comply with laws that support their pregnant and nursing employees. If they are unwilling, we can help you. 

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. 

1. Pregnancy at work

Staying healthy at work is important when you’re pregnant, both for you and your baby. It’s your right to request, and your employer must provide:

  • more frequent restroom, food and water breaks; 

  • seating; and 

  • limits on lifting more than 20 pounds.

You have the right to request other workplace changes when you have been given advice from a health care provider or doula. This may require you to have a conversation with your employer about your request.

Other changes may include temporary transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous job. There may be limited exceptions to these employer requirements.

2. Pregnancy or parental leave from work

By law, you may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during or following pregnancy when:

  • you work for a company with 21 or more employees at one site; 

  • you have worked at least half time during the past 12 months; and

  • you have been with the company for a total of at least 12 months.

Pregnancy and parental leave may be taken for:

  • prenatal care;

  • pregnancy or related health conditions;

  • childbirth or adoption; or 

  • bonding time by a birthing or non-birthing parent after the birth or adoption of the child.

You may also be able to use employer-provided benefits, such as sick leave or disability leave, if you are sick during pregnancy or to recover after childbirth.

Many of these leave provisions overlap with the federal Family and Medical Leave Act

3. Expressing milk at work

Breastfeeding improves well-being and reduces health care costs. If you decide to express breast milk at work, your employer must provide:

  • break time to express breast milk; and 

  • a private area to express milk that is not a bathroom, is shielded from view, is free of intrusion from coworkers and the public, is in close proximity to the work area, and has access to an electrical outlet. 

There may be limited exceptions to these employer requirements.

Informing your employer

Need support in talking with your employer? Follow these tips. 

Don’t wait. Begin the conversation early to help yourself and your employer. 

Be positive. Approach the news as a win-win for both you and your employer. 

Speak up. It’s OK to tell your employer your needs and rights. 

Be informed. Share this website with your employer, human resources manager or workplace advocates. 

Know your rights. An employer may not retaliate against an employee for asserting their legal rights.

Frequently asked questions 

Still have questions? Check out these frequently asked questions and answers.

Q:  Are employees who take pregnancy and parental leave entitled to the same job after returning from leave?

A:  Yes, employees are entitled to return to their former positions or to positions of comparable duties, number of hours and pay.

Q:  Do the pregnancy accommodation requirements apply to all employers?

A:  No, the pregnancy accommodation requirements only apply to employers that employ 21 or more employees at one site. Effective Jan. 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.

Q:  Can my employer require me to make up time for breaks taken to express milk at work?

A:  Under current law, breaks to express milk are unpaid, however, effective Jan. 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, your employer can’t cut your pay or require you to make up time used to express milk as of Jan. 1, 2022.

Q:  Does my workplace have to be a certain size to comply with the nursing mother law?

A:  No, the size of the employer does not matter for the nursing mother law. Even if you are the only employee, your employer is required to comply with this law.

Q:  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?

A:  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.,

Q:  Who should employees call if they believe they are being discriminated against because they are pregnant?

A:  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 by visiting mn.gov/mdhr or calling 651-539-1100 or 800-657-3704.

Q:  Who should employees call if they believe they qualify for leave but are not being allowed to take the leave?

A:  Employees who believe they are entitled to leave but are not receiving the leave should contact the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry at 651-284-5075 or 800-342-5354 to get more information about whether they qualify or to make a complaint.

Q:  What is the best way to ensure my company is abiding by the laws under the Women's Economic Security Act (WESA)?

A:  It is a good idea to update employee handbooks to reflect all changes in the law since the enactment of WESA. Questions? Read more frequently asked questions or contact the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry at 651-284-5075 or 800-342-5354.

Resources

View or print a flyer that reviews workplace protections for pregnant employees and new parents in English, Hmong, Somali and Spanish. To receive copies of these brochures, email Dave Skovholt at david.skovholt@state.mn.us.

View this video in Hmong, Somali and Spanish.

Contact us

  • if you have questions or need more information; and

  • if your employer is unwilling to comply with the law.

We’re here to help you — and to protect your rights! Contact DLI’s Labor Standards unit at dli.laborstandards@state.mn.us or 651-284-5075.