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Images of pregnant employees and new parents at work

Are you pregnant or a new parent?

In Minnesota, you have legal protections to help keep you safe and healthy in the workplace. State legislation to support working parents and employers covers three categories:

  1. Pregnancy at work

  2. Pregnancy or parental leave from work

  3. Expressing milk at work

Know your rights. Speak up. Most employers are willing to comply with laws that support their pregnant and nursing employees. If they are unwilling, we can help you.

Contents

1. Pregnancy at work

Staying healthy at work is important when you’re pregnant, both for you and your baby. It’s your right to request, and your employer must provide:

  • more frequent restroom, food and water breaks; 

  • seating; and 

  • limits on lifting more than 20 pounds.

You have the right to request other workplace changes when you have been given advice from a health care provider or doula. This may require you to have a conversation with your employer about your request.

Other changes may include the temporary transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous job.

2. Pregnancy or parental leave from work

Staying healthy during your pregnancy is good for you and state law is here to support you. By law, you may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during or following pregnancy when:

  • you work for a company with 21 or more employees at one site; 

  • you have worked at least half time during the past 12 months; and

  • you have been with the company for a total of at least 12 months.

Pregnancy and parental leave may be taken for:

  • prenatal care;

  • pregnancy or related health conditions;

  • childbirth or adoption; or 

  • bonding time by a non-birthing parent after the birth or adoption of the child.

You may also be able to use employer-provided benefits, such as sick leave or disability leave, if you are sick during pregnancy or to recover after childbirth.

Many of these leave provisions overlap with the federal Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). 

3. Expressing milk at work

Breastfeeding improves well-being and reduces health care costs. If you decide to express breast milk at work, your employer must provide:

  • break time to express breast milk; and 

  • a private area to express milk that is not a bathroom, is shielded from view, is free of intrusion from coworkers and the public, and has access to an electrical outlet. 

There may be limited exceptions to these employer requirements.

Informing your employer

Need support in talking with your employer? Follow these tips. 

Don’t wait. Begin the conversation early to help yourself and your employer. 

Be positive. Approach the news as a win-win for both you and your employer. 

Speak up. It’s OK to tell your employer your needs and rights. 

Be informed. Share this website with your employer, human resources manager or workplace advocates. 

Know your rights. An employer may not retaliate against an employee for asserting their legal rights.

Frequently asked questions 

Still have questions? Check out these frequently asked questions and answers.

Q: Are employees who take pregnancy and parental leave entitled to the same job after returning from leave?

A: Yes, employees are entitled to return to their former positions or to positions of comparable duties, number of hours and pay.

Q: Do the pregnancy accommodation requirements apply to all employers?

A: No, the pregnancy accommodation requirements only apply to employers that employ 21 or more employees at one site. However, discrimination because of pregnancy is prohibited regardless of the employer’s size.

Q: Does my workplace have to be a certain size to comply with the nursing mother law?

A: No, the size of the employer does not matter for the nursing mother law. Even if you are the only employee, your employer is required to comply with this law.

Q: Who should employees call if they believe they are being discriminated against because they are pregnant?

A: Some employees may not qualify for pregnancy and parental leave under the Women's Economic Security Act. In these cases, it is recommended an employee who is retaliated against or terminated for pregnancy-related issues contact the Minnesota Department of Human Rights for possible pregnancy or sexual discrimination claims by visiting mn.gov/mdhr or calling 651-539-1100 or 800-657-3704.

Q: Who should employees call if they believe they qualify for leave but are not being allowed to take the leave?

A: Employees who believe they are entitled to leave but are not receiving the leave should contact the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry at 651-284-5075 or 800-342-5354 to get more information about whether they qualify or to make a complaint.

Q: What is the best way to ensure my company is abiding by the laws under the Women's Economic Security Act (WESA)?

A: It is a good idea to update employee handbooks to reflect all changes in the law since the enactment of WESA. Questions? Contact the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry at 651-284-5075 or 800-342-5354.

Read more frequently asked questions.

Contact us

  • if you have questions or need more information; and

  • if your employer is unwilling to comply with the law.

We’re here to help you — and to protect your rights!

Learn more

The Women's Economic Security Act (WESA) strengthens workplace protections and flexibility for pregnant women and nursing mothers, expands employment opportunities for women in high-wage, high-demand occupations and reduces the gender pay gap through increased enforcement of equal pay laws.

Review these enforcement statistics related to WESA

For federal laws related to pregnancy and parental leave, as well as the Family and Medical Leave Act, visit this webpage

The Minnesota Department of Health’s Breastfeeding Friendly Recognition Program helps employers establish compliant workplace lactation practices. 

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights oversees anti-discrimination provisions of the Women’s Economic Security Act.