If you’ve been with this blog since it’s inception, you probably recall a few posts here, here, and here that I did early on about what employers needed to know about the breastfeeding in the workplace laws.
Now, the CHRO in conjunction with the Connecticut Departments of Public Health and Labor, and the Connecticut Breastfeeding coalition, have released a document entitled “Guide to Connecticut Breastfeeding Nondiscrimination and Workplace Accommodation Laws” which you can download here.
The guide sets forth the basic parameters of the state of the law in Connecticut:
Mothers can generally breastfeed at a time, place and manner of their choosing while in a place of public accommodation. They do not have to go to a special area or go into the restroom. They do not have to cover the baby with a towel or blanket. The owner, manager or employee of a place of public accommodation cannot request that the mother stop breastfeeding her baby, cover up, move to a different room or area, or leave.
The guide says that it is adopted from a similar guide in the state of Washington. And it can be confusing in that it doesn’t distinguish clearly between what businesses need to do to accommodate breast-feeding mothers and what businesses need to do to accommodate their workers.
For example, under one FAQ, it answers the question: “Do I need to provide a special room or space for breastfeeding mothers?” with “No. You do not need to provide a room or separate space for breastfeeding mothers, although you may choose to do so.”
That may be true for members of the public that may use a business’s public space, but that’s not the state of the law for employers. As the guide notes several pages later, Connecticut does have a law that requires employers to provide such a space. Specifically, Conn. Gen. Stat. 31-40w(b) states that: “An employer shall make reasonable efforts to provide a room or other location, in close proximity to the work area, other than a toilet stall, where the employee can express her milk in private.”
Its also a little imprecise at times. For example, it posits the question of “Do I have to provide break times to an employee to breastfeed or express milk?” It answers as follows:
It depends. The Connecticut law provides that if your business does not already provide breaks to employees, it does not need to provide special break periods for women who wish to express milk or breastfeed. However, the federal law does require employers to do so (for non-exempt employees) and whenever the federal law provides greater rights to the employee, the business must comply with that law.
As I’ve noted though in a prior post, not all employers are going to be covered by the federal law — a point that isn’t made clear in this section.
So, while this guide IS a useful document, employers who may be struggling with this issue, ought to review the law and seek some counsel to understand and solve the issues specific to their particular workplace.