Senators Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Expand Breastfeeding Protections at Work

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), joined by Sens. Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Bob Casey (D-PA), Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Al Franken (D-MN), announced the introduction of the Supporting Working Moms Act of 2017. This bipartisan legislation would help ensure that more working mothers can continue to breastfeed their babies after they return to work.

This bill builds on an existing law authored by Merkley and Rep. Carolyn 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.

“No American worker should have to choose between her job and breastfeeding her baby,” said Merkley. “Ensuring that new mothers returning to the workplace have the option to continue breastfeeding is good for business and good for families. With this bill, businesses can improve retention of valuable employees, and parents will be empowered to make their own choices, rather than being constrained by outdated workplace policies.”

“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.”

“Giving new moms the flexibility to work and care for their children is a no-brainer,” said Blumenthal. “By expanding the 2010 back to work breastfeeding provisions to include both wage earning and salaried workers, this bill provides critical support for nursing mothers and newborns during a baby’s formative phases. Making breastfeeding more accessible for working moms will help millions of businesses and families thrive.”

“Working mothers provide critical financial support to millions of American families,” said Warren. “By expanding support for breastfeeding mothers, this bill will help level the playing field for working women across the country.”

“Ensuring that women can continue to breastfeed when returning to the workplace is critical to the health and well-being of mothers and babies, and it is essential to our country’s economic stability,” Hassan said. “This bipartisan bill is a common-sense measure to help ensure that women can remain in the workplace while supporting the health of their children and contributing to our nation’s economic success. I will continue fighting to ensure that women have the freedom to make their own health care decisions and are not held back from participating in our economy because of outdated policies.”

“It’s basic common sense that moms should have the flexibility to do their jobs and breastfeed their children,” Wyden said. “This bill stops employers from penalizing women who choose to breastfeed their kids and removes barriers that right now make it harder for new mothers to return to work and support their families.”

According to the Business Case for Breastfeeding, published by the Department of Health and Human Services in 2014, 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.

The Supporting Working Moms Act is endorsed by the following national organizations:

Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine

American Association of Birth Centers

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

Baby Cafe USA

Breastfeeding in Combat Boots

Childbirth and Postpartum Professionals Association

HealthConnect One

Healthy Children Project, Inc.

Human Milk Banking Association of North America

International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners

Mom2Mom Global


National Association of County and City Health Officials

National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners

National Partnership for Women & Families

National WIC Association