FAQ: Expanded Health & Pregnancy Requirements Under Minnesota’s Women’s Economic Security Act
The Women’s Economic Security Act, which was signed into law on May 11, 2014, includes a number of new required health, pregnancy, and sick leave accommodations and benefits from employers. Here are some FAQs on these newly expanded requirements.
How much pregnancy and parenting leave is now required?
An employer must grant an unpaid leave of absence of 12 weeks (the previous requirement was 6 weeks) to an employee who is a biological or adoptive parent in conjunction with the birth or adoption of a child; or a female employee for prenatal care, or incapacity due to pregnancy, childbirth, or related health conditions.
When does the pregnancy/parenting leave start if an employee needs it?
The leave shall begin at the time requested by the employee, but the employer may adopt reasonable policies regarding the timing of leave and may require an employee who plans to take leave to give the employer reasonable notice of the date of when the leave shall begin and the estimated duration of the leave.
Has the ability to use sick leave benefits expanded?
Yes. In addition to the previous law allowing employees to use sick time to care for themselves or a family member, the new law allows an employee to use sick time for “safety leave.”
What is “safety leave?”
Safety leave is leave for purpose of providing or receiving assistance because of sexual assault, domestic abuse, or stalking for either the individual employee or an employee’s family member.
What if an employer’s policy does not allow the use of sick time for “safety leave?”
The statute specifically states that sick time must be allocated to safety leave for the employee if needed whether or not the employer allows use of sick leave for safety purposes.
Can an employer limit the amount of safety leave and sick leave used to care for a family member?
Yes. An employer can limit it to 160 hours in any 12-month period.
Are pregnancy accommodations required?
Yes. An employer must provide reasonable accommodations to an employee for health conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth if requested with the advice of the employee’s licensed health care professional (or doula).
What are considered “reasonable accommodations?”
It may include, but is not limited to, temporary transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position, eating, frequent restroom breaks, and limits on heavy lifting.
Does an employee need to provide a “doctor’s note” before an employer has to provide more frequent restroom, food, and water breaks, seating, or 20 pound lifting limits?
No. An employee is not required to provide a doctor’s note for these accommodations.
Does an employer have to create a new position at the company to accommodate pregnancy?
No. An employer is not required to create a new or additional position in order to accommodate an employee and should not be required to discharge any employee, transfer any other employee with greater seniority, or promote any employee.
Can an employer require an employee to take a leave instead of providing her with a pregnancy accommodation?
No. An employer shall not require an employee to take leave or accept an accommodation.
What if an employer cannot provide reasonable pregnancy accommodations, are there any exceptions?
Yes. If the employer demonstrates that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the operation of the employer’s business, then an accommodation is not required.
Do the new pregnancy/parenting leave, expanded sick leave benefits, and pregnancy accommodations affect all employers?
No. Only employers that employ 21 or more employees at a single location.
What are the new requirements for nursing accommodations?
An employer must make reasonable efforts to provide a room or other location, in close proximity to the work area, other than a bathroom or a toilet stall, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public and that includes access to an electrical outlet.