Healthy Babies, Working Mothers Act Gains Strong Bi-Partisan Support
Proposed bill removes workplace barriers to breastfeeding
January 27, 2016
MADISON – Representative Subeck (D-Madison), together with Representative Joan Ballweg (R- Markesan) and Senator Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point), has introduced LRB-3285 to ensure nursing mothers do not face unnecessary barriers in the workplace. LRB-3285 would bring Wisconsin law in line with federal employment regulations regarding breastfeeding and provide additional accommodations to ensure that nursing mothers do not have to choose between breastfeeding and returning to work. The bill also ensures that unpaid break time taken for the purpose of nursing or expressing breast milk would count toward meeting eligibility thresholds for employer sponsored health insurance. After circulating for co-sponsorship, the bill has received support from both Democrats and Republicans.
“New mothers too often face an impossible choice between returning to work and breastfeeding their babies,” said Representative Lisa Subeck. “This bill would update state law, removing barriers for nursing mothers returning to the workforce.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for an infant’s first six months, with continued breastfeeding as complementary foods are introduced. However, working mothers are less likely to initiate breastfeeding and are more likely to breastfeed for a shorter length of time than women who don’t have to deal with workplace barriers. In 2010, the federal government updated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), requiring employers to provide accommodations at the workplace which would enable nursing mothers to breastfeed or express milk at work. This bill codifies these changes at the state level and adds critical protections to ensure nursing mothers are not forced to choose between breastfeeding and health care.
This bill addresses an issue raised by a constituent who lost her health insurance because unpaid breaks to express breastmilk resulted in her total work hours dropping slightly below the minimum threshold for health insurance eligibility. The Healthy Babies, Working Mothers Act was drafted with significant input from breastfeeding coalitions and breastfeeding support organizations, including public health professionals.
“I am pleased that the Healthy Babies, Working Mothers Act has received early bipartisan support and am hopeful the bill will move forward,” said Subeck. “No mother should have to choose between making the healthy choice for her baby versus returning to work and providing health care for her family.”
Click here to view a copy of LRB-3285.