Buried in the newly enacted health care reform legislation is a provision that amends the Fair Labor Standards Act to require employers to provide a “reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for a nursing child for 1 year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk.” In addition, the employer must provide for this purpose “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public.”
Businesses that employ fewer than 50 employees are exempt from these requirements if they can show that following them would impose an “undue hardship.” The burden of proof will be on the employer and may be difficult to meet in most cases.
On the other hand, things could have been worse for employers. Yesterday, April 1, a wag claimed that, but for Republican intervention, the legislation would have required:
a windowed room, with a view of a tree, lace curtains and a pleasing floral wall paper. The “mother’s retreat” must be equipped with dimmable lighting, a La Leche approved breast-feeding rocker, and be stocked with warm towels.
SCOTT adds: Minnesota made its own contribution to these annals with this parallel statute back in 1998. The Minnesota statute doesn’t require a room with a view, but along the same lines as the new federal law, it does require “a room or other location, in close proximity to the work area, other than a toilet stall, where the employee can express her milk in privacy.”
On the one hand, it is good to see that Congress has prohibited the use of a bathroom, and not just a toilet stall, to satisfy the law. Pelosi’s Democrats are thinking big. On the other hand, the Minnesota statute is not limited to one year post partum. Minnesota thus retains a wider zone than federal law for “free expression.”
UPDATE (by Scott): Rush Limbaugh discussed Paul’s post (transcript here) on his broadcast today.