Minnesota's Parental Leave Act of 1987 was ahead of the country when it was passed. Designed as a state-created policy, and not a response to a federal law, Minnesota's Parental Leave Act was one of four such acts passed by states in 1987 (Connecticut, Oregon, Rhode Island were the other three). Minnesota's law was written in gender neutral language (vs. similar laws which provide only for maternity leave), and provides a mother or father up to six weeks of unpaid leave upon the birth or adoption of a child. The employee needs to have been working at their job for at least twelve consecutive months; the law also mandates that insurance remain available to the employee while on leave. The state law applies only to companies with 21 or more employees, a modification of the federal law which applies only to companies with 50 or more employees. In 1990, the law was modified to ensure that employers allow their employees up to 16 hours of leave during any school year to attend school conferences or classroom activities if they could not be scheduled during non-work hours. (Laws 1990, Chapter 577)
The idea of a paid maternity leave dates back to the 1880s in Germany. Paid parental leave has evolved as a statutory practice in other countries in the world much more quickly than in the United States. In the U.S., the Department of Labor in 1942 advocated offering women six weeks pre-birth and eight weeks post-birth, but no federal legislation enforcing any kind of family leave was signed until 1993. States were left to design their own options for parental leave, creating a patchwork of laws around the country during the 1980s and 1990s. In 1993, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) became federal law; it does not pre-empt or preclude state laws which might offer more generous benefits. Under the FMLA, employees may take up to 12 weeks off for the birth/adoption of a child, but also for the sickness of a close relative. The FMLA only applies to employers with 50 or more employees (more than 50% of U.S. companies have fewer than 50 employees). Internationally, the U.S. still lags behind other countries in the area of parental leave. Worldwide, statutory childbirth-related leaves provide, on average, more than one year of leave, and in over 100 countries, that leave is paid.
Minnesota's Parental Leave Law. St. Paul, MN: Office on the Economic Status of Women, Updated 2006.
Parental Leave, Family and Medical Leave, and Pregnancy Discrimination. St. Paul, MN: Office on the Economic Status of Women, Updated 2006.
State Parental Leave Act and federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA): A Quick Reference Guide. St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry