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Governor Walz signed into law new legislation that will expand the protections for pregnant and nursing employees. The expansion of the Women Economic Security Act (“WESA”) went into effect July 1, 2023, and will impact employers in Minnesota with one or more employees. In this article, we will outline the new changes to the law, along with additional information on employees’ rights.
What are the Changes?
Changes to the current law expand the rights of pregnant workers and new parents, including but not limited to, pregnancy accommodations, lactation, and required employee notification. Outlined below are the changes the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry has made to comply with the updated law:
- All nursing and lactating employees are required to receive break times to express milk regardless of their child’s age without losing compensation.
- Workplace lactation spaces are required to be clean, private, and secure.
- This area must not be a restroom and must be free from intrusion. Additionally, this area is required to be in close proximity to employees’ work area, and the room itself must have an electrical outlet.
- All nursing and lactating employees have a right to break times to express milk regardless of whether providing the breaks unduly disrupts the operations of the employer.
- Employees must be able to choose when to express milk based on their needs, whether that means expressing milk during an existing paid break, during an existing unpaid break, such as a meal break, or during some other time.
- Employers are required to notify all employees of the rights of pregnant and lactating employees when hired, when an employee makes an inquiry about or requests parental leave, and in an employee handbook if one is provided. The notice must be provided in English and the primary language of the employee. The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) makes the required notice available for employers in English, Chinese, Espanol, Hmoob, Soomaali, and Vietnamese.
- The statutory list of examples of reasonable pregnancy accommodations has been expanded to include a temporary leave of absence, a modification to work schedule or job assignment, and more frequent or longer breaks. Employees have the right to the following accommodations by request:
- More frequent or longer restroom, food, and water breaks
- Seating accommodations
- Limitations on lifting requirements – 20 pounds or less
- All employees, regardless of their employer’s size or amount of time for which they have worked for their employer, must have a right to pregnancy accommodations and up to 12 weeks of unpaid pregnancy and parental leave.
For additional information or to learn more about the changes to the pregnant workers and new parents law visit, the Minnesota Department of Labor has more details.
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