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Senator Jeff Merkley's picture

Greetings! The last time I was here blogging at MomsRising I was pushing for a nationwide breastfeeding law to give nursing moms reasonable break time and privacy at work to pump breast milk. I am proud to say that nursing moms now have new breastfeeding protections in place to make life easier for them once they return to work. I want to thank you for your strong advocacy and take a quick moment and give you an update on what this new law means for nursing moms across the country.

The breastfeeding provision went into effect on March 23, 2010, the day President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law, so nursing moms already have access to a more comfortable work environment.  As the Department of Labor develops plans to implement this new law, I stand willing to assist them in any way to ensure that its full potential is realized.

The new law does these three key things:

First, it requires employers to provide nursing moms with reasonable unpaid break times to pump breast milk up until the child’s first birthday. It covers “non-exempt” workers, typically hourly workers such as those in the retail, manufacturing and restaurant industries. If you’re eligible for overtime pay, then the law applies to you.
Second, employers must provide a private space, not just a bathroom, for nursing moms to pump breast milk.

Third, employers who have less than 50 employees are given the opportunity to file for an exemption to the law if they prove undue hardship. Since passing a similar law in Oregon in 2007, very few businesses have found it difficult to accommodate their employees. The businesses who did find it difficult were able to work with the Oregon of Bureau of Labor and Industries to find a creative solution.

I pushed for workplace breastfeeding laws in Oregon and at the Federal level because I believe it’s important to give moms the chance to provide healthy breast milk to their babies, even when they’re working full time. Breastfeeding has been proven to help prevent diseases in both babies and moms, while at the same time increasing productivity for businesses. I can’t tell you how gratifying it has been to be part of an effort to promote better health for new moms and their babies.

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