Lactation education

Minnesota Starts the New Year with New Rules: Interrupted Lactation and Pregnancy Accommodations Act Takes Effect | Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, CP

As businesses returned to work after the holidays, changes in Minnesota Nursing Mothers Act and Pregnancy Accommodations Act (Minn. Stat. § 181.939) went into effect January 1, 2022. Employers in Minnesota may want to take a moment to ensure their policies and practices are up to date.

Minnesota Nursing Mothers Law Now Requires Paid Lactation Breaks

Minnesota law now requires an employer to provide “reasonable break times each day” for employees to express their milk. Note that “times” is now plural. Previously, the law required only one lactation break during the working day. Along with the amendment, the law also states that “an employer shall not reduce an employee’s pay for time spent expressing milk.” In other words, pauses for the purpose of expressing milk are compensable under Minnesota law. Previously, the law required an unpaid break.

The Breastfeeding Mothers Act obliges employers (with one or more employees) to provide reasonable break times for expressing breast milk during the “first twelve months after the birth of the child”. This break time “must, if possible, compete” with other rest and meal breaks. Under the law, an employer is not required to grant this break time if it “unduly disrupts” the employer’s operations. As stated above, break time must now be paid. The law also prohibits retaliation against employees who exercise their right to mandatory lactation breaks.

Minnesota law expands coverage of required pregnancy accommodations

The amendment also moves the statutory language of Minnesota’s Pregnancy Accommodation Requirements (Minn. Stat. § 181.9414) into the Nursing Mothers Act (Minn. Stat. §181.939). With this ruling, the minimum number of employees required for the Pregnancy Accommodations Act to be triggered has increased to 15 employees (previously 21 employees).

As a reminder, Minnesota pregnancy accommodation law requires employers to provide certain accommodations to pregnant employees unless an accommodation would cause undue hardship. The law lists several accommodations that an employee does not need a doctor’s note to request and that an employer cannot claim to pose an undue hardship, including toilet or water breaks, seating and a restriction of lifting 20 lbs. Retaliation against employees for requesting or obtaining pregnancy accommodation is prohibited.

Key points to remember

Companies may wish to review their lactation break policies and practices to ensure they are providing the paid break time required under the amended Minnesota law. Companies with between 15 and 20 employees may wish to review their pregnancy accommodation policies to ensure that they are providing accommodations in accordance with the law, which now applies to them.