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Senate Sends Dayton Women’s Workplace Rights Bill

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A bill called a hallmark update to Minnesota’s workplace protections for women headed Thursday to Gov. Mark Dayton for his expected signature.

The Minnesota Senate gave final approval to the measure on a 43-24 vote. That came after the chamber narrowly rejected a move to force more negotiations aimed at clarifying clauses business groups fear will invite lawsuits.

Under the bill, parents would be allowed to take 12 weeks instead of the current six for pregnancy and parenting leave in conjunction with a child’s birth or adoption. Pregnant women would be entitled to reasonable accommodations to protect their well-being. Nursing mothers would be assured private space to express their milk. And “familial status” would be added to laws guarding against unfair employment practices, aimed at preventing women from being bypassed for promotions over doubts about their dedication to career over family.

Most companies with state contracts of $500,000 or more would have to certify they pay men and women similar salaries for similar jobs. Those that don’t could lose state work.

“This bill is going to work. It’s going to be accepted. Businesses are going to adjust to it,” said Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, who referenced his 6-year-old daughter in debate. “My daughter is going to have a more welcoming workplace she can enter.”

The bill nearly stalled as leery lawmakers from both parties said wording about familial status and the pay certification were too ambiguous. Those lawmakers — five Democrats and all Republicans — sought unsuccessfully to reopen talks with the House, which passed the bill a day earlier.

“This is not ready,” said Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake. “This doesn’t work in the real world. This doesn’t work for real people.”

Supporters held their ground in a tense 34-33 vote to keep the bill on track for final approval. Sen. Patricia Torres Ray, DFL-Minneapolis, framed the vote to press forward as about holding businesses accountable for ensuring fairness.

“This is about women’s rights,” she said. “This is not about business rights.”

(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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