Conference committee agrees on Women’s Economic Security Act

A House-Senate conference committee has reached an agreement on a bill designed to improve working conditions for women.

The agreement would expand unpaid family leave and require businesses to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant and nursing employees. It would also provide money to help increase the number of women working in high-wage, high-demand jobs.

The bill also requires any state contractors to prove that female employees are not consistently paid less than male employees who work in similar job categories.

“This is a great deal for women and their families,” said Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul.

Pappas and other backers say they hope the measure will reduce any pay gap between men and women who work in similar jobs. But business groups are raising concerns that the bill would increase their costs.

The bill could increase expenses for businesses, said  Minnesota Chamber of Commerce Director of Tax and Fiscal Policy Beth Kadoun.

“The concern is that it will open up new litigation risks and exposures and costs that could be immense,” Kadoun said. “It could be $10,000 minimum for a small business all the way up to $100,000 plus and not necessarily provide that protection to the employee that they’re looking for.”

The House and Senate have to vote on the bill again. If both chambers pass it, the bill would head to Gov. Dayton’s desk.

Groups lobbying for passage of the bill are urging their supporters to contact their legislators. They are targeting lawmakers from both parties.

In particular, they singled out 36 members of the House and 20 members of the Minnesota Senate in their lobbying campaign.