Editorial: Minnesota leads the way in offering paid break time for nursing, lactating employees to express milk at work
The following is an editorial by Department of Labor and Industry Commissioner Roslyn Robertson about changes to the Women's Economic Security Act.
Minnesota is now the third state to offer paid break time for nursing and lactating employees to express milk at work.
Following Georgia and Illinois, effective Jan. 1, 2022, employers in Minnesota will no longer be allowed to reduce an employee’s compensation for break times used to express milk at work; a welcome change for the approximately 44,000 working Minnesota parents who have given birth in the previous year.
The law change also allows more pregnant employees — those who work for an employer with 15 or more employees — to have the right to request and receive a pregnancy accommodation in the workplace, such as more frequent restroom, food and water breaks and limits to heavy lifting.
Under the new law, an estimated 27,000 more workers of childbearing age in Minnesota will be able to request and receive a pregnancy accommodation at work.
The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (DLI), which ensures compliance with wage and hour laws, proposed these changes to the law after contracting with Wilder Research in 2019 to get feedback about pregnant and new parents’ experiences in the workplace. In the findings, DLI learned new parents faced barriers to expressing milk at work, such as not being able to take breaks when needed and having to stay late to make up for any break time used. The research also found that while many pregnant employees did not need an accommodation in the workplace, those who did often did not receive one.
Now, Minnesota parents will no longer have to face the difficult choice between pumping at work to feed their infants and getting paid. Further, the expanded right to pregnancy accommodations will allow more Minnesotans to remain safely at work during their pregnancies and continue to receive a paycheck to support their growing family.
These accommodations not only support the health of both parent and baby, but benefit employers by improving employee retention, loyalty and productivity.
I am proud of the bipartisan advancements of the law designed to protect and promote opportunities for new and expectant parents in the workplace and grateful for the leadership of Gov. Tim Walz, Rep. Erin Koegel and Sen. Julia Coleman. The new law expands provisions of the Women’s Economic Security Act (WESA), which was passed in 2014 to strengthen workplace protections for women, among other priorities.
Our staff members respond to inquiries from expectant and new parents who are unaware of their workplace rights and protections, as well as employers who are unaware of their responsibilities under the law. If you have questions, call our agency at 651-284-5075 or 800-342-5354 or visit www.dli.mn.gov/newparents for information and resources.