Women’s Economic Security in Minnesota
Women’s Economic Security Is Good For Minnesota
Protecting and promoting women’s economic security and equal access to employment and opportunity in Minnesota is essential to Minnesota’s economic health. Minnesota’s laws protecting these rights keep talented women in the workforce, help lift up families and children, and benefit Minnesota as a whole by ensuring that everyone—regardless of gender—can afford to live their lives with dignity and respect.
But There Is Much Work To Be Done In Minnesota
However, despite progress in these areas, too many women in Minnesota do not have the same economic security or opportunities as men, including:
- Women with a master’s degree working full-time earn $1,018 less per year than a comparable man with only a bachelor’s degree.
- Racial disparities exist as well. While white women received 18% less wages on average than white men, Asian American women received 25% less wages than white men, African American women received 40% less, and Latinas received 45% less.
- Only 3% of workers in middle wage construction jobs, 5% in mechanical jobs, and 5.3% in precision production jobs are women.
- Only 66 of 201 state legislators in Minnesota are women.
- Only 7 of the top 85 Minnesota companies are headed by women.
- Women own 32% of Minnesota businesses, but generate just 4% of the revenue and employ only 8% of employees.
Minnesota has a number of legal protections that can help improve gender equity in Minnesota, including the following:
The Equal Pay For Equal Work Law
Minnesota’s Equal Pay Law prohibits employers from paying women employees at a rate less than what male employees receive for equal work or for jobs which require equal skill, effort, responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions. Paying a female employee less than a male counterpart is wage theft.
The Minnesota Department of Human Rights has authority to audit and certify that state contractors with more than 40 employees satisfy Minnesota’s Equal Pay Law.
Employees whose Equal Pay rights are violated are entitled to one year of back wages at the higher rate of pay as well as up to an equal amount in punitive damages.
At an employee’s request, an employer must provide reasonable accommodations to an employee for health conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth. Some accommodation requests should be made with the advice of a doctor or certified doula. Other requests, such as more frequent restroom, food, and water breaks; seating; and limiting lifting to 20 pounds do not require the advice of a doctor or doula.
Employers must allow employees who are new parents of biological or adoptive children up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. The leave begins at the time requested by the employee, within 12 months of birth or adoption or when the child leaves the hospital after birth.
Sick And Safe Leave
Minnesota law requires that, if an employer provides employees with sick leave, employees must be able to use the leave to care for their children (including adult children), spouse, parents (including in-laws and stepparents), grandparents, and grandchildren.
Minnesota law also allows employees to use sick leave for safety leave to deal with domestic abuse, sexual assault, or stalking.
Employers must provide nursing mother employees with reasonable unpaid break time to express breast milk. Employers must make reasonable efforts to provide a room other than a bathroom or toilet stall for a nursing mother employee to express breast milk that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public. That room should include access to an electrical outlet where possible.
Protecting Your Rights
For all of the protections discussed above, employees may file a lawsuit on their own behalf. The Minnesota Attorney General may also enforce these laws pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 181.1721. The Minnesota Attorney General’s Office may be reached at:
Office of Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison
445 Minnesota Street, Suite 1400
St. Paul, MN 55101
(651) 296-3353 (Twin Cities Calling Area)
(800) 657-3787 (Outside the Twin Cities)
(800) 627-3529 (Minnesota Relay)
The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry also shares some enforcement authority in the area of gender equity and may be contacted at:
The Women’s Economic Security Act also expanded antidiscrimination protections for workers and now includes protections for familial status—i.e. having minor children at home. Workers who believe they are experiencing gender, family, or pregnancy discrimination at work or in business may also wish to contact the Minnesota Department of Human Rights at:
The Women’s Economic Security Act also included unemployment protections for workers who are forced to leave employment because of issues related to loss of childcare, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking issues. Workers experiencing these issues may contact the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development at:
Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development
1st National Bank Building
332 Minnesota Street, Suite E200
St. Paul, MN 55101
(651) 259-7114 or (800) 657-3858
Wage theft occurs any time an employer does not pay an employee everything the employee is owed by law. Nationally, employees are underpaid by as much as $50 billion dollars each year due to wage theft.
Independent Contractor Misclassification
Individuals who perform regular work for a company in the course of that company’s business are employees. An independent contractor, on the other hand, is a worker who is not an employee and independently contracts with an individual or business to provide a good or perform a service.