Starting on January 1, Minnesota businesses will be required to offer paid breaks to nursing mothers to pump their breast milk. The state's legislature approved the paid break with bipartisan support, which is being called the "next frontier" for gender equality in the work place.
Minnesota CBS Local reports:
Liz Morris is the deputy director of the Center for WorkLife Law, which is a legal team at the UC Hastings School of Law that focuses on gender, racial and class equity in the workplace. Morris co-authored a report that found due to an unintended legal technicality, over 9 million women of childbearing age aren’t covered by the federal Break Time Nursing Mothers Law.
“I think paid breaks for lactation is the next frontier,” Morris declared. “No mother should be forced to choose between breastfeeding her baby and her livelihood, so laws like this really ensure that no mother has to make that impossible choice.”
Minnesota is the third state to pass this legislation, following Illinois and Georgia. Indiana requires paid lactation breaks, but only for state employees.
GOP Sen. Julia Coleman and DFL Rep. Erin Koegel worked together in the House and the Senate to expand the protections, guaranteeing that no one would lose income to pump breast milk.
“You should never have to decide ‘do I want to maintain my income and keep food on the table for my family? Or do I want to feed my baby?,'” Coleman explained. “We’re better than that in Minnesota.”
The passage “says breastfeeding is a part of working moms’ lives. Deal with it,” she added.
Rep. Erin Koegel, DFL-Spring Lake Park, first pushed for the bill during her second term two years ago. At the time, her infant daughter, Clara, was a fixture around the state capitol, strapped to her mother’s chest as Koegel represented her district during committee meetings and floor debate.
She said she was first surprised to learn about the unpaid lactation law.
“There’s so many jobs that you can sit at your desk and pump,” Koegel said. “But there are so many jobs that you can’t like retail. So making sure that that women have the ability to do that and not be punished for it was one of the key things that I wanted to make sure that we saw happen.”
Working with Coleman was a bipartisan bright spot. Koegel called it an “amazing” opportunity to work on making sure the provision passed both chambers.
“Representation matters,” Koegel added. “And these are those kind of issues where we understand it a little bit better than our male counterparts.”
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