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Today the House of Representatives passed a bill authored by State Representative Sandra Masin (DFL – Eagan). The bill was included as part of 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.
According to a new report by the University of Minnesota Humphrey School’s Center on Women & Public Policy, families headed by women are four times more likely to be living in poverty and that women earn a median pay of 80 percent of what men earn.
“These bills are designed to make sure all workers have equal rights and opportunities in the work place,” said Rep. Masin. “More and more households are depending on women to support them financially, and now is the time to address the barriers that are still in place for those women.”
Rep. Masin’s bill would bar any discrimination or retaliation against an employee who talks about salaries and wages with fellow employees.
The Women’s Economic Security Act builds on Minnesota’s positive economic momentum by ensuring equal opportunities for women to succeed in the workplace and provide for their families. Members of the public, small business owners, and religious organizations testified in support of the bill during the committee process.
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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