As I continue a deeper dive into new Connecticut employment laws, Public Act 21-27 adds three new parameters for the existing requirement that an employer provide a lactation room or other location in the workplace for a mother to express her milk.
Previously, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-40w only required that such room or location be private, in close proximity to the work area, and not a toilet stall.
Beginning October 1 and absent undue hardship, such room or location must also:
- be free from intrusion and shielded from the public while an employee expresses breast milk;
- include or be situated near a refrigerator or employee-provided portable cold storage device in which the employee can store her breast milk; and
- include access to an electrical outlet.
Again, as noted above, an employer is not required to provide these new parameters if there is an undue hardship.
Typically, the undue hardship defense is a high bar to meet and depends on the difficulty and expense of providing such parameter in relation to factors such as the size of the employer’s business, its financial resources and the nature and structure of its operation.
Given that mini-fridges can be purchased for under $100, it would be exceedingly difficult for an employer to argue that the cost of such a refrigerator is an “undue hardship”.
Notably, under the new law, the undue hardship defense does not apply to any of the three original parameters.
So, at the very minimum, all employer-provided lactation rooms or locations will be private, in close proximity to the work area, and not a toilet stall.
Nearly all employers are covered by this Act so there are no major exceptions for even small employers, except as to the undue hardship analysis.
Employers that do not have a designated lactation room may find that a conference room with a lock or adding a lock to an office may be a good solution. Regardless, employers should review their existing practices to ensure compliance with this new law.
My thanks to my colleague Sheridan King who assisted on this update, a version of which first appeared on our sister blog, Employment Law Letter.