By: James B. Sherman, Esq.
Much of the new Women's Economic Security Act, known as "WESA" - enacted by the 2014 Minnesota Legislature - became effective "upon enactment," i.e. May 11, 2014 = Mother's Day. Other provisions of WESA have gone into effect as of July 1, 2014. Still further amendments to eligibility for unemployment compensation for resignations or terminations relating to sexual assault and/or stalking, take effect October 5, 2014.
As WESA's significant changes are phased in we are receiving more and more requests from employers seeking review and guidance on a variety of employee handbook policies that may be affected by WESA. For example, WESA requires that employee handbooks now contain a statement affirming employees' rights to disclose their wages. No doubt employers are taking note of WESA's broad reach, recognizing that it extends not only to sick leave and other leave of absence policies, but also creates new prohibitions on discrimination and harassment, new employer obligations to accommodate pregnancy and nursing mothers, and protections for employees about discussing wages.
Some of the most frequent policies and practices we have been asked to audit and revise include:
- The need for employers with twenty-one or more employees to revise policies for pregnancy and parenting leave to address, among other things, the extension of leave from six weeks to twelve weeks and to account for leave that now includes addressing "pregnancy related needs."
- The need to revise reasonable accommodation policies to address health conditions related to pregnancy or child birth, and guidance on the law's mandate that certain requests from pregnant employees do not need to be accompanied by a health care provider's note and are not considered undue hardships.
- The need to revise paid sick leave benefits due to WESA's expansion that allows employees to use such benefits for certain individuals outside of the employee's immediate family and for "safety leave" to deal with issues relating to sexual assault, domestic abuse or stalking.
- Guidance on revising discrimination and harassment policies to account for Minnesota's newest protected class of "familial status," and for training on understanding membership in this protected class.
WESA represents a new civil rights law for women and significantly changes the landscape of employment law in Minnesota. For assistance and guidance with auditing and revising your existing employment policies and employee handbook to comply with these new mandates, contact the knowledgeable attorneys in Wessels Sherman's Minnesota office at (952) 746-1700, or email email@example.com.