Governor Bruce Rauner signed into law a bill amending the Nursing Mothers in the Workplace Act (the “Act”) on August 21, 2018. This bill expands the protections for employees needing to express breast milk in the workplace. Some significant changes to the Act include:
- Break time allowed for employees to express breast milk “may not reduce an employee’s compensation” regardless of the length of the break. Previously, the Act stated that employees could use existing compensated breaks, usually for 20 minutes or less pursuant to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, but any time used over the already-provided compensated breaks would be unpaid. The bill removes the word “unpaid” allowing employees any length of time necessary to express breast milk.
- Break time “may” run concurrently with any break times already provided. Previously, the Act stated that breaks to express breast milk “must, if possible” run concurrently with other break times.
- Employers are required to provide breaks for expression of milk for a minimum of one year following the child’s birth where previously there was no timeframe included.
- Employers are required to prove an “undue hardship” as defined by the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA) in order to avoid providing the required break. Previously, the Act stated employers were exempt from providing breaks if doing so would “unduly disrupt the employer’s operations,” but this was never defined in more detail. Under the IHRA, “undue hardship” is defined as an “action that is prohibitively expensive or disruptive” when considering the following:
- The nature and cost of the accommodation
- The overall financial resources and the number of people employed at the facility
- The overall financial resources and size of the employer
- The nature of the operations of the employer
The above protections are expansions to the Act, and it should be noted that employers are still obligated to make reasonable efforts to provide a room or other location in close proximity to the employee’s work station as stated under the previous Act.
With the amendments that took effect immediately upon enactment, it is recommended that Illinois employers with more than five employees review and update their current lactation break and accommodation policies to ensure compliance with the new amendments.
If you have any questions or if you would like more information on how Sikich can provide support with your policy revision efforts, please reach out to your designated Sikich HR Consultant.