Employment News

Women’s Protections in the Minnesota Workplace


Feb 20, 2020

February 20, 2020 – U.S. women currently hold more jobs than men, a development that seems to reflect a growing trend in the U.S. workforce. According to Labor Department data, women held 50.4% of jobs in December 2019, surpassing men on the payrolls by 109,000. Despite a rising trend of women holding more positions and even gaining traction in higher level positions, they continue to suffer from inequalities in the workplace. Fortunately, there are many legal protections for women in Minnesota and nationwide.

Sexual Harassment

Minnesota has some of the greatest protections for women who are victims of workplace sexual harassment. Minnesota was ahead of the nation in recognizing sexual harassment and declaring it illegal. The state legislature added a specific prohibition against “sexual harassment”—and a definition—to the state Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA) in 1982. It was also the first state to approve a class action lawsuit against an employer-defendant. Despite Minnesota’s protections for women against harassment, legal advocates continue to work hard to strengthen protections, hold employers liable, and pursue compensation for victims.

Anti-Discrimination

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination against women by their employers. The federal law mandates that employers cannot discriminate against female employees during the hiring process, while employed, or in the termination or exiting process. Minnesota laws go even further to prevent discrimination in employment, requiring that anyone employing one or more workers must comply with the law. The MHRA was also expanded to protect employees based on marital status and familial status and to prevent discrimination in employment based on pregnancy.

Equal Pay

While the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets a minimum wage and overtime requirements, Minnesota laws go even further to protect the rights of women against sex-based wage discrimination. Though women still only earn about 80 cents per dollar than men, the federal Equal Pay Act of 1963 requires companies to pay women the same amount as they would men for doing the same job. In Minnesota, the Women’s Economic Security Act expands workplace opportunities for women in high-wage earners and reduces the gender pay gap through increased enforcement of equal pay laws. For example, under this Act, women have the right to disclose the amount of their own wages, and employers cannot retaliate against them for doing so.

Pregnancy and Family Care

Without regulations, employers and businesses were known to fire or lay off employees when they became pregnant or deny employment to pregnant women. They claimed this saved them in healthcare cost and the cost of hiring temporary help while women were out of work. The federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 prohibits discrimination based on pregnancy. Further, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protects eligible families who need to take time off work to care for a newborn child, ill spouse, or other family member.

The Minnesota Pregnancy and Parental Leave Act requires employers to provide eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth or adoption of a child or to female employees for prenatal care, pregnancy, childbirth, or related health conditions. Employees are protected from discrimination and harassment and are entitled to return to the same or similar position after their leave.

Protection Against Retaliation

The MRHA prohibits employers from retaliation against workers who speak out against violations of law. Women who report sex discrimination, pregnancy discrimination, sexual harassment or other employment rights violations are protected from retaliation, as are employees who file a charge, testify, assist or participate in an investigation, proceeding or hearing related to misconduct.

Contact Our Women’s Rights Employment Lawyers

If you are a woman employed in Minnesota, it is critical that you know your rights in the workplace. Whether you have suffered discrimination or harassment, or you suspect unequal pay between men and women in your company, our attorneys at Baillon Thome Jozwiak & Wanta LLP can help you protect your rights and financial interests. We will take a strategic approach to your case, uncover any misconduct, and advise you on how to move forward with your situation. Contact us for a confidential discussion or to discuss a potential claim against your employer.