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Illinois Requires Paid Break Time for Nursing Moms

Labor & Employment Publications

Last Friday, August 21, 2018, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed a bill amending the Illinois Nursing Mothers in the Workplace Act (the “Act”) to provide paid break time to nursing mothers “as needed” to express milk during work hours. The new requirement took effect immediately and applies to all Illinois employers with more than five employees.

Before the amendment took effect, nursing mothers were entitled to express breast milk during any paid break time their employers provided, but any additional time needed for lactation purposes outside of their regularly scheduled breaks could be unpaid. Due to the change in the law, a nursing mother may now take paid breaks whenever, and for however long, she needs for lactation purposes during the first year after her child is born. Employers must still provide a private location, other than a bathroom stall, for mothers to express milk.

The law provides a limited exception if an employer can prove that “provid[ing] reasonable break time as needed . . . would create an undue hardship…[under] the Illinois Human Rights Act [“IHRA”].” An employer claiming this exemption must prove that providing reasonable paid break time to nursing mothers as needed must be prohibitively expensive or disruptive when considering the following factors:

  1. The nature and cost of providing reasonable paid break time as needed;
  2. The overall financial resources of the facility or facilities involved in the provision of the reasonable paid break time, the number of persons employed at the facility, the effect on expenses and resources, or the impact otherwise of the accommodation upon the operation of the facility;
  3. The overall financial resources of the employer, the overall size of the business of the employer with respect to the number of its employees, and the number, type, and location of its facilities; and
  4. The type of operation or operations of the employer, including the composition, structure, and functions of the workforce of the employer, the geographic separateness, administrative, or fiscal relationship of the facility or facilities in question to the employer.

Employers who have employees who are currently taking breaks to express milk at work should immediately review those situations to ensure that employees receive their full compensation for any such breaks. Employers should also review and update their policies and procedures to ensure that they comply with the new requirements.

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