Healthy Babies, Working Mothers Act

2017 Assembly Bill 193

The Healthy Babies, Working Mothers Act ensures nursing mothers do not face unnecessary barriers in the workplace. It would bring Wisconsin law in line with federal employment regulations regarding breastfeeding and ensure that women who are taking unpaid break time to breastfeed or express breast milk do not lose eligibility for employer sponsored health insurance. The Healthy Babies, Working Mothers Act is identical to 2015 legislation which received bipartisan support and a public hearing last year but did not pass out of committee before the end of the legislative session.

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 would codify these changes at the state level and adds critical protections to ensure nursing mothers are not forced to choose between breastfeeding and health care. The bill ensures new mothers can maintain their healthcare coverage by counting any unpaid breaks for the purpose of breastfeeding or expressing milk toward any minimum hours required for health care eligibility.

The legislation was in response to concerns from a constituent who faced challenges as a nursing mother returning to work. Her employer had made accommodations for her to express breast milk at work and allowed her unpaid breaks to do so. Unfortunately, because these breaks were unpaid, her hours dropped slightly under the minimum threshold for health insurance eligibility.

The Healthy Babies, Working Mothers Act would help ensure a smooth transition back to work and guarantee that no woman would have to make the impossible choice between breastfeeding her new baby and providing health coverage for her family.

Click here to view the status of this legislation.