June 30, 2023 in Articles

Minnesota Parental Leave Act – How Will it Impact Your Business?

This article was provided by Janell Stanton, attorney with WFJ Law Firm + The Compliance Center

In what is likely to go down as one of the busiest legislative sessions for employment-related laws in Minnesota history, employers have been left with a lot to unpack.  From legalizing recreational marijuana, banning non-compete agreements, and passing both paid sick and paid family and medical leave laws, the hits just kept coming.  However, while some of these law changes were well-publicized, a few others have flown under the radar.  These include expanding the Minnesota Parental Leave Act (“MPLA”), passing additional protections for pregnant and nursing mothers, and enacting a salary history ban.

Starting on July 1, 2023, employers with just one or more employees must provide unpaid leave under the MPLA.  Previously, only employers with 21 or more employees needed to provide this leave.  Further, where employees only became eligible for MPLA leave if they worked for an employer for one year and at least half-time, those prerequisites are gone as of July 1. 

Additionally, the Minnesota statute that provides pregnancy accommodations and protections for nursing mothers, Minn. Stat. § 181.939, now applies to any employer with one or more employees, effective July 1, 2023.    

Further, additional examples of reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees were added to the statute and include temporary leaves of absence, modifications in work schedules or job assignments, and more frequent restroom breaks.   

The law changes also expanded nursing mother protections by:

  1. Removing the limitation that only allows nursing mothers break times to express breast milk for 12 months following the birth of their child;
  2. Removing the exemption employers could previously use to deny lactation breaks if they would unduly disrupt an employer’s operations;
  3. Amending the statute to state that lactation breaks may, instead of must,run concurrently with any breaks time the employer already gives. 

Employers must also provide notice to employees both at the time of hire and if an employee asks about parental leave.  Companies that provide employee handbooks must also add information about parental leave rights in the handbook.

Last, beginning on January 1, 2024, employers may no longer inquire into a job applicant’s salary history.  These salary history bans have been enacted across the United States to stem the tide of pay inequity.  The thinking behind these bans is that if an employee has been historically underpaid due to their protected class status, a new employer, upon learning of the applicant’s salary history, will likely perpetuate that wage inequity by offering a wage that is lower than it may have been without that knowledge.  While applicants can still volunteer information about their salary history, employers can only use that volunteered knowledge if the net result is the employer offering a higher wage than what was initially offered by the employer. 

As should be clear by now, Minnesota employers have a lot of changes to learn about and prepare for.  It is a good time to start reviewing existing employee handbooks and other policies to ensure compliance in the days and months ahead.