What is the Minnesota Women’s Economic Security Act?

The Minnesota Women’s Economic Security Act, also known as WESA, was introduced on 1st May, 2014 as a measure to increase economic equality in Minnesota. The Women’s Security act passed the Senate and Minnesota House with wide bipartisan support. The law expanded certain rights among employees and also created obligations for firms that employ Minnesota residents. The Act combined 9 legislation that are geared toward leveling the playing field in the workplace and creating better working conditions for women.

The Role of the Minnesota Women’s Economic Security Act
The Minnesota Women’s Economic Security Act seeks to eliminate the gap in gender pay by allowing workers to disclose their personal earnings and by establishing a policy of equal pay among businesses that meet certain standards. It raised the minimum wage in Minnesota to $9.50, consequently raising the earnings of some women and their households. The Act also increased early learning scholarship funding to provide additional access to affordable and high-quality childcare. This was a crucial move because the quality of early education programs significantly influences a child’s life. The Minnesota Women’s Economic Security Act also made some changes to the Minnesota Parental Leave Act to allow a more flexible sick leave policy for women and mothers. The Act is keen on increasing the support for mothers and ensuring that there is no workplace discrimination against women in terms of caregiver status. It offers more protection to domestic violence victims through unemployment insurance eligibility and job stability provisions. Through the workforce development program of the Minnesota Department of Economic and Employment Development, the Minnesota Women’s Economic Security Act offers various incentives to encourage women to seek employment in high-paying, and non-traditional jobs. The Act also supports women-owned businesses through a project for businesswomen to create companies in technology-related and traditionally male-dominated industries. The Act established the Minnesota Retirement Savings Plan and updated the Medicaid spousal impoverished law to support older women in economic security, and allow employees in the small private sector without a retirement plan sponsored by their employer to put their savings in a state-managed program.

Right to Disclose Personal Earnings
The Minnesota Women’s Economic Security Act allows workers to disclose their personal earnings to other employers. Consequently, Employers in Minnesota cannot apply non-disclosure of wages as a requirement for employment. Employers can also not make employees sign any document that waives their right to disclose their personal earnings. The implication is that employers can’t take any adverse actions against workers who disclose their personal earnings or discuss another worker’s personal earnings that were voluntarily disclosed. Moreover, the Act requires employers to offer formal notice of their workers’ rights and remedies. A civil lawsuit may be brought against an employer who retaliates against workers for asserting their right to disclose personal earnings, or violates this provision. In such a scenario, an employer may be liable for a workers’ back pay, attorneys’ fee, court costs, and actual damages.

Protected Class
The Minnesota Women’s Economic Security Act expands the MHRA (Minnesota Human Rights Act by restricting employment discrimination based on the “family status” of a worker. Familial status refers to the condition of 1 or more underage people being domiciled with their legal guardian or parent(s), or the designee of the guardian or parent(s) with the written consent of the guardian or parent(s). This provision also applies to any pregnant person or one who is about to secure legal custody of a minor. All employers in Minnesota are required to abide by this provision.