Earlier this month, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont signed House Bill No. 5158, “An Act Concerning Breastfeeding in the Workplace.” Effective October 1, 2021, this legislation will expand the scope of an employer’s obligation to accommodate lactating and breastfeeding employees.
The new legislation amends Connecticut General Statutes section 31-40w, which guarantees an employee’s right to breastfeed or express breast milk at the workplace during the employee’s meal or break period. The statute, which applies to all Connecticut employers regardless of size, requires employers to make reasonable efforts to provide a room or other location where employees can express breast milk in private. The amended statute provides additional information regarding the “room or other location” that must be provided beyond the existing statute, which only requires that it must be near the work area and cannot be a toilet stall.
As of October 1, 2021, the room or other location will have to meet the following requirements:
- It must be free from intrusion and shielded from the public while the employee expresses breast milk;
- It must include or be situated near a refrigerator or employee-provided portable cold storage device in which the employee can store breast milk; and
- It must have access to an electrical outlet.
These new statutory requirements will apply only to the extent that they do not impose an “undue hardship” on the employer’s business. The statute defines undue hardship as “any action that requires significant difficulty or expense when considered in relation to facts such as the size of the business, its financial resources and the nature and structure of its operation.”
In other words, whether the new requirements will impose an undue hardship on an employer is a fact-specific question that must be decided on an individual basis. Nonetheless, many employers may be hard-pressed to show an undue hardship from giving a lactating employee access to a small room with a door, an electrical outlet and a mini-fridge so the employee can express breast milk during a meal or break period. In view of these amendments, Connecticut employers are well-advised to review their policies and procedures regarding accommodations for lactating or breastfeeding employees in the workplace to ensure compliance with Connecticut law.