DFL lawmakers approve closing gender gap, workplace protections

By KBJR News 1

April 9, 2014 Updated Apr 10, 2014 at 12:17 AM CDT

St. Paul, MN (NNCOW.com) - Minnesota House lawmakers approved a measure in a 106-24 vote Wednesday that aims to strengthen working families.

The Women's Economic Security Act closes the gender gap, strengthens workplace protections and expands employment opportunities for women in high-wage, high demand professions.

Studies show women on average earn 80 cents to the dollar that men earn.

In Greater Minnesota, women earn even less.

The act, sponsored by Rep. Carly Melin (DFL-Hibbing) also calls for workplace protections.

"No women should have to choose between whether to start a family or whether or not to start a family. Unfortunately, we know right now women who are pregnant and women who are nursing don't have accommodations in the work place and are faced with a difficult decision of either being terminated or having to leave their workplace to care for their families," Rep. Melin said.

Surrounded by lawmakers on the front steps of the Capitol ahead of Wednesday's vote, one young Minneapolis woman recalled despite accolades for her work, she was passed up for a pay raise over a new male employee.

She says it shouldn't happen to others.

"Please, let's show women, their families and the nation that it does not have to be an economic disadvantage to be born a woman. I urge this bill be passed in its entirety," Danielle Hans said.

The measure now heads to the Senate floor for a vote.

Breakdown of Women's Economic Security Act

-Allow mothers to stay in the workforce by expanding family leave and providing reasonable accommodations for pregnant and nursing employees
- Expand access to high-quality, affordable childcare
- Removes the $5,000 cap on early learning scholarships.
- Decrease the gender pay gap through the participation of women in high-wage, high-demand nontraditional work
- Reduce the gender pay gap through increased enforcement of equal pay laws for state contractors and by allowing employees to discuss pay inequities
-Decrease the gender pay gap by providing equal employment opportunities for family caregivers and reducing the “motherhood penalty”
- Address economic consequences of domestic violence, stalking, and sexual assault
- Enhance retirement security by considering a state retirement savings plan for those without an employer-provided option

Written by Kevin Jacobsen
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