Minn. Leads Way on Pay Equity Issues, Gov. Signs Legislation

ST. PAUL, Minn.— Minnesota took the lead on comprehensive women’s equity issues, as Gov. Mark Dayton, DFL-Minn., signed the Women’s Economic Security Act, which includes measures to close the gender pay gap, provide more parental leave and more.  He signed the measures on Mother’s Day.

The week before, the state legislature approved the package of measures, sponsored by Rep. Carly Melin, DFL-Hibbing, and Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul.  “When future generations look back, we will be able to tell them that we did something to make the lives of working women and working families better,” Melin said at the signing ceremony.

The Minnesota package, which unions strongly backed, includes several measures considered on the national level to help women and woman workers.  But the bills are stalled by congressional gridlock. But Minnesota’s Women’s Economic Security Act goes beyond measures considered in D.C. Some of the key legislation components:

  • Expands unpaid leave under the Minnesota Parental Leave Act from six to 12 weeks and allows the use of leave under the Parental Leave Act for pregnancy-related needs;
  • Decreases the gender pay gap through the participation of women in high-wage, high-demand occupations in fields such as science, technology, engineering, and math;
  • Requires private sector businesses with 40 or more employees seeking state contracts over $500,000 to comply with the state’s pay equity policy, by certifying they are paying men and women in the same job categories equally;
  • Addresses negative economic consequences of domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault;
  • Expands unemployment insurance eligibility currently available to victims of domestic violence to include victims of stalking and sexual assault;
  • Lets employees use existing earned sick leave to recover from sexual assault, domestic violence, or stalking; and
  • Enhances retirement security by considering a state retirement savings plan for those without an employer-provided option.

“My hope for Minnesota and for the sake of everybody will be that 30 years from now, we won’t have to go through this again – that we’ll look back and see that progress has been made as a result of this outstanding legislation,” Dayton said.