Thursday, March 12, 2015

Research Q of the Week: 10 Things You Should Know About WESA (3/9/15)

Question: The Women's Economic Security Act (WESA) was signed into law on Mothers Day 2014. Almost one year later, what are the main things cities should know about the act?          

Answer: Here are the top 10:

1. Things pregnant employees get: Cities with 21 or more employees must allow pregnant employees (no exceptions):
  • More frequent restroom, food, and water breaks
  • Seating
  • Limits on lifting over 20 pounds
2. Request for reasonable accommodations: Cities have to engage in an interactive process if pregnant employees ask for reasonable accommodations, which could include:
  • A temporary transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position
  • Seating
  • Frequent restroom breaks
  • Limits to heavy lifting
3. Undue hardship: Cities could deny accommodations if they would be an undue hardship, with the exception of those listed in #1, If a city has plans to deny accommodation, it should first consult the city attorney.

4. Nursing mothers: Cities need to provide a room, other than a bathroom, for nursing mothers to express milk privately. This law applies to all cities, regardless of size. The room should be shielded from view and free from intrusion, and also include an electrical outlet.

5. Parenting leave from 6 to 12 weeks: Cities with 21 or more employees must provide unpaid leave to an employee who is a new or biological or adoptive parent. The most significant change is that this leave must be 12 weeks instead of 6, as previously required, The leave can be used for prenatal care in addition to childbirth or adoption.

6. What is family?: The definition of family for sick leave purposes include adult children, spouses, siblings, parents, grandparents, step-parents mother- and father-in-laws, and grandchildren.

7. Safety leave: Cities with 21 or more employees must allow sick leave to be used as a safety leave, as well. "Safety leave" is used to provide or receive assistance because of sexual assault, domestic abuse, or stalking. Safety leave extends to all family members for whom sick leave time can be used.

8. 160-hour cap: Cities must provide at least 160 hours for sick or safety leave in a 12-month period. Time used by employees to care for themselves or their children, though, does not apply to this limit.

9. Protection of familial status: "Familial status" includes one or more minors living with their parents, legal guardians, or designees of a parent or guardian. "Familial status" has been protected in unfair discriminatory practices for housing, but WESA now includes protection for employment purposes.

10. What a city doesn't need to do: A city doesn't need to create a new or additional position to accommodate a pregnant employee. At the same time, a pregnant employee doesn't have to take or accept an accommodation from an employer.

How did you do? The list seems long, but there are even more aspects of WESA to understand. For additional information, see the League's Focus on New Laws article published last year.

Written by Irene Kao, research attorney with the League of Minnesota Cities. Contact: ikao@lmc.org or (651) 281-1224
This blog post conveys general information. It’s not legal advice. Please check with your city attorney before acting on this information.





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