Background

On August 21, 2018, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed a bill, immediately effective, amending the Nursing Mothers in the Workplace Act, which applies to employers with more than five employees and grants reasonable break time each day to an employee needing to express breast milk for her infant child.

Significant changes

The amendments make several major changes to the law:

  1. Previously, employers had to provide “reasonable unpaid break time each day” to an employee needing to express milk. This meant that employees could use existing paid breaks (generally 20 minutes or less, pursuant to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act) for lactation purposes, but any additional time could be unpaid. The amendments removed the word “unpaid,” and now imply that break time provided for the expression of milk “may not reduce an employee’s compensation,” regardless of the length of the break being taken.
  2. Employers are now required to provide breaks for expression of milk for a minimum of one year after the child’s birth.
  3. Previously, the law stated that break time for lactation purposes “must, if possible” run concurrently with other break time. Now, the break time for lactation purposes “may” run concurrently with break time already provided to the employee.
  4. Previously, employers were exempt from providing breaks if doing so would “unduly disrupt the employer’s operations.” The amendments modify this language to require employers to prove an “undue hardship,” as it is defined in the Illinois Human Rights Act, in order to avoid providing the required breaks. This change imposes a more significant burden on employers to meet the exemption.

Employer next steps 

Employers with operations or employees in Illinois should review their current break and lactation policies to ensure they comply with the amended law. If you are an HR Knowledge client, we have updated our template policy and will be happy to work with you to modify your employee handbook.

 

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