Women's Economic Security Act becomes law on Mother's Day - KMSP-TV

Women's Economic Security Act becomes law on Mother's Day

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) - Gov. Mark Dayton celebrated Mother's Day by signing a bill dubbed the Women's Economic Security Act into law on Sunday morning. The measure aims to provide equal pay for women and provide stronger workplace protections.

"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," Rep. Carly Melin said.

The Minnesota Senate passed the bill on a 51-14 vote in late April that aims to lessen the pay gap between men and women in the workforce. Currently, women in Minnesota earn 20 percent less than their male counterparts.

WHAT IT DOES

1. Increases the unpaid leave for a pregnancy from six weeks to 12 weeks to provide mothers more flexibility in caring for their children and not forcing them to quit their jobs if they need more time. The bill expands the allowable use of sick time to include caring for grandchildren or receiving assistance because of sexual assault, or domestic abuse.

2. Provides $500,000 in grant money to organizations such as Women Venture to help women in getting high-paying, nontraditional jobs.

3. Spends $25,000 to help women entering apprenticeship programs for high-paying trade jobs.

4. Sets up another $500,000 in grants for women owned businesses to help them expand.

NO DISCRIMINATION FOR PREGNANT WORKERS


Cassondra Williams was working as a paralegal in a growing law firm, but she told Fox 9 News everything changed the day she told her boss she was pregnant.

"It seemed like -- if I had other obligations that weren't there for work -- that it probably wasn't going to be the right fit for me," she reflected.

Now, the amount of unpaid time off has doubled and employers will be required to offer reasonable unpaid breaks for pregnant women, including time for new mothers to pump milk -- and that's a change Williams welcomes.

"My happy ending was that I was able to find great employers, and it's no longer an issue for me -- but it really will be for other working moms," she said.

STRONG SUPPORT FOR DOMESTIC VIOLENCE VICTIMS

Along with increasing flexibility for mothers the law also strengthens support for victims of domestic abuse by allowing them to use sick leave in order to cope with personal issues, including domestic assault and stalking.

"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.

READY FOR RETIREMENT?

On average, women have half as much money saved up for retirement as men do in Minnesota. That's why the law also requires the state to look into options for setting up retirement savings plans for employees that don't have them.
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