Minnesota Governor Tim Walz recently signed legislation that adds to the workplace protections for new and expectant parents. The new law takes effect on January 1, 2022, and expands upon the provisions previously passed in 2014 under the Women’s Economic Security Act (WESA). Because of these expansions, an estimated 27,000 additional workers will be able to receive pregnancy accommodations in the workplace.
The key changes under the new law include, among other things:
- Nursing and lactating employees must receive paid break time to express milk at work for twelve months following the child’s birth. However, this change does not affect regularly unpaid break times, including meal breaks.
- Employers with 15 or more employees must give employees with health conditions relating to pregnancy or childbirth, regardless of employment duration or hours worked, accommodations including more frequent restroom, food, and water breaks; seating; and limits on lifting over 20 pounds.
Based on these new provisions, we recommend that employers start taking the following steps to ensure compliance with the law:
- Notify employees that if possible, employees expressing milk must use regularly scheduled break times to do so, and if they are required to take additional break time to express milk, they will be paid.
- Ensure a room or other location is available reasonably close to the work area, other than a bathroom. It must be shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public and also include an electrical outlet for an employee to plug in a laptop or other portable device.
- When requested by the employee, provide more frequent restroom, food, and water breaks; seating; and limited lifting to under 20 pounds.
Employers should note that these reasonable accommodations made by an employee with health conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth may mean temporary transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position. However, the employer is not required to create a new or additional position to meet these accommodations.