Senators Announce Introduction of Bipartisan Bill to Expand Breastfeeding Protections at Work

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), joined by Sens. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Al Franken (D-MN), announced the introduction of the Supporting Working Moms Act of 2015. This bipartisan legislation helps ensure that more working mothers can continue to breastfeed their babies after they return to work. 

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) also announced the introduction of the Supporting Working Moms Act in the U.S. House of Representatives.

This bill builds on an existing law authored by Merkley and Maloney in 2010 that provides space and time for hourly employees to pump breastmilk at work. The Supporting Working Moms Act would extend these protections to salaried workers.

“Ensuring that new mothers returning to the workplace have the option to continue breastfeeding is good for business and good for families,” said Merkley. “No one should have to choose between her job and breastfeeding her baby. With this bill, businesses can improve retention of valuable employees and workers will be empowered to make whichever choice they feel is right for their family.”

“I am proud to introduce this legislation to support nursing mothers and their newborn babies in one of the most critical stages of development,” said Murkowski. “By encouraging breastfeeding for working mothers, and making it more accessible for them to do so, we are helping to improve the health and well-being of both mother and child.”

“Oregon law already recognizes that businesses do better when they allow their employees flexibility to meet child care and family needs,” Wyden said. “New moms – whether salaried or paid hourly – should be able to take time to breastfeed, and I’m proud to support this bill that takes another step toward a fair work-family balance.

According to the Business Case for Breastfeeding published by the Department of Health and Human Services, employers that provide support for breastfeeding mothers experience lower health care costs, lower rates of absenteeism, and better retention of experienced employees. 

The Supporting Working Moms Act would help new parents and babies by:

Expanding the Breastfeeding Provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act to Cover Salaried Office Workers

The 2010 Merkley-Maloney provision amended Section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act to provide mothers who are classified as non-exempt employees with reasonable break times to pump milk in a private, non-bathroom environment while at work.  The Supporting Working Moms Act would expand this provision to cover salaried employees who work in traditional office environments.  The expansion would cover an additional approximate 13.5 million executive, administrative, and professional women in the workplace.