As we’ve previously reported, the Connecticut legislature amended the protections afforded pregnant employees in the 2017 legislative session.
Among other things, the new statute makes it unlawful:
- To fail or refuse to make a reasonable accommodation for an employee or person seeking employment due to her pregnancy, unless the employer can demonstrate that such accommodation would impose an undue hardship on such employer.
- To limit, segregate or classify the employee in a way that would deprive her of employment opportunities due to her pregnancy.
A client recently asked what rules exist for employers with respect to employees who are breastfeeding.
That’s an excellent question. Under Connecticut law, any employee may, at her discretion, express breast milk or breastfeed on site at her workplace during her meal or break period. Further, any employer who has at least one employee must make “reasonable efforts” to provide 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 private. “Reasonable efforts” means any effort that would not impose an undue hardship on the operation of the employer’s business; and “undue hardship” means any action that requires significant difficulty or expense when considered in relation to factors such as the size of the business, its financial resources and the nature and structure of its operation.
It is also important to note that Connecticut law prohibits an employer from discriminating against, disciplining or taking any adverse employment action against any employee because she has elected to exercise her rights to express breast milk or breastfeed on site at her workplace .
In addition, when Congress passed the Affordable Care and Patient Protection Acts, they amended the Fair Labor Standards Act as well, requiring that employers provide additional breaks under federal law for nursing mothers to express breast milk.
Federal law mandates “reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk.” These breaks may be taken by the nursing employee as frequently as needed by that employee.
Similar to Connecticut law, employers under federal law must also provide “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from co-workers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.”
It’s important to note that unlike Connecticut law, not every employer is covered by this federal law. Employers of fewer than 50 employees are not required to comply with the federal law requirement to provide additional break time if such compliance would impose a hardship for the employer (multi-site employers with 50 or more employees are required to accommodate nursing employees even if each individual site employs only a handful of employees).
Finally, unless the employer compensates other workers during short breaks for other reasons (such as smoking, rest, etc.), nursing mothers who are hourly, non-exempt employees do not have to be compensated under federal law during their nursing breaks, regardless of duration.
If you are an employer in Connecticut and have questions about maternity laws, contact the attorneys at Kainen, Escalera & McHale. Each of us has over 20 years of experience in all aspects of employment law and labor law and can help you with this complicated topic. Please contact us if we can help you.
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