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Saint Paul, Minnesota – Today state lawmakers in the Minnesota House of Representatives passed the Women’s Economic Security Act (WESA) by a vote of 106-24, major legislation aimed at closing the gender pay gap, strengthening workplace protections and flexibility for pregnant mothers and expanding employment opportunities for women in high-wage, high-demand professions.
Speaker Paul Thissen and House Majority Leader Erin Murphy released the following statements:
Speaker Paul Thissen:
The Women’s Economic Security Act is among our top priorities because when women succeed, Minnesota’s economy grows stronger. Our economy is headed in the right direction, but not everyone is sharing in the gains. And when you dig underneath the first layer of economic challenges facing Minnesotans, we find that the people struggling to stay or step-in to the middle class are disproportionately women. That is why the Women Economic Security Act is so important.
We are working to break down barriers to economic progress so that women -- and all Minnesotans -- have a fair opportunity to succeed. We are pleased by this strong vote of support and look forward to moving this important bill forward this session.
House Majority Leader Erin Murphy:
We have come a long way since the “Mad Men” days – but that doesn’t make it any less maddening for women who still don’t earn equal pay for equal work.
The Women’s Economic Security Act is recognition of the fact that women face unique economic barriers, and that we can do better to break them down, so that women have a fair shot at opportunity and success. By breaking down these barriers, we grow our middle-class, strengthen our economy and make Minnesota stronger – for both men and women.
The omnibus bill approved by the Minnesota House today would:
Allow mothers to stay in the workforce by expanding family leave and providing reasonable accommodations for pregnant and nursing employees
· HF 2371 (Kahn): 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 (Yarusso): 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 (Morgan): 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 (Selcer): 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 (Moran): 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 (Masin): 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 (Melin): Requires equal employment treatment regardless of “family caregiver status” or “familial status.”
· HF 2461 (Lesch): 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 (Rosenthal): Expands unemployment insurance eligibility currently available to victims of domestic violence to include victims of stalking and sexual assault.
· HF 2461 (Lesch): 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 (Fritz): 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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