Bill Would Expand Nursing Mother Protections

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) have introduced legislation that would afford civil rights protections to breastfeeding employees and expand existing rights to more employees. Specifically, the Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2011 (H.R. 2758; S. 1463) would amend both the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to prohibit employers from terminating or otherwise discriminating against an employee who nurses or expresses milk during lunch or break times and entitle many salaried employees to the same benefits given to their non-exempt counterparts under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

A provision in the new health care law amended the FLSA to require employers with 50 or more employees to provide rest breaks and space for non-exempt employees who are nursing mothers to express breast milk. The new bill would include salaried workers by amending Section 13 of the FLSA. According to a press release, the added protections in this bill would cover “an additional approximate 13.5 million executive, administrative, and professional women in the workplace.”

The bill also would protect women from discrimination for exercising their rights under the law. The measure would “clarify that breastfeeding and expressing breast milk in the workplace are protected conduct under the amendment made by the Act commonly known as the ‘Pregnancy Discrimination Act’ to title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.” The Pregnancy Discrimination Act states that the protections of Title VII apply with respect to “pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.” The Breastfeeding Promotion Act would add “lactation” to that list.

In a statement, Maloney said: “Public opinion and awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding continue to grow, and the momentum we’ve recently gained presents the perfect opportunity to build on that progress in achieving our goals,” adding, “The health and economic benefits of breastfeeding cannot be ignored, and the reintroduced Breastfeeding Promotion Act would further encourage and promote breastfeeding by ensuring working moms who choose to breastfeed have the support they need to do so.”

Photo credit: camilla wisbauer