Minnesota Expands Nursing Mothers Pregnancy Accommodations

September 21, 2021  |  Scott M. Lepak

By Scott Lepak and Claire Schmitz

The 2021 Minnesota legislature amended the nursing mother statute to provide broader protections and clarifications.  The law states:

(a) An employer must provide reasonable break times each day to an employee who needs to express breast milk for her infant child during the twelve months following the birth of the child. The break times must, if possible, run concurrently with any break times already provided to the employee. An employer is not required to provide break times under this section if to do so would unduly disrupt the operations of the employer. An employer shall not reduce an employee’s compensation for time used for the purpose of expressing milk.

2021 Minn. Laws Ch. 10, Art. 3, § 3 (S.F. No. 9).

There are some areas of note in this amended law:

  • The employer “must provide reasonable break times.” This implies that multiple breaks per day must be allowed. The prior law referenced a break time that was not plural. 
  • These breaks must be “reasonable.” Though “reasonable” was not defined in the original law (1998) or in the 2021 amendment, there is some authority suggesting that the average time it takes for a woman to pump her breasts is 15-20 minutes. With cleaning and putting away equipment, these breaks should last approximately 30 minutes. Id
  • The law now implements a 12-month time limit for these breaks.  This is the same general time limit as federal law.  See 27 U.S.C. 207, section 7 (r).
  • Perhaps most importantly, the Minnesota Legislature removed the prior language stating that the breaks may be unpaid. Instead, employers must not cause their employees to lose any compensation due to expressing breast milk during the workday.

The existing statute notes that an employer is not required to provide break times under this section if to do so would unduly disrupt the operations of the employer.  How such a limitation would be enforced to preclude any breaks for this purpose remains an unresolved question.  Employers are strongly recommended to not rely too heavily on this particular provision. 

In short, the provisions of the 2021 amendments broaden protections for nursing mothers. Here is what you can do in your workplace to ensure you are complying with these updates:

  • Allow women to take breaks throughout the workday to express their breast milk for about 30 minutes at a time.  Consider any unique circumstances that may require a somewhat longer time (for example the distance from the work location to a private area).
  • Request your employees take their breast pumping time concurrently with any break times already provided if possible.
  • Review your current nursing mothers policies in employee handbooks and ensure that employees are not losing compensation for these breaks.

If you have further questions on this matter, please contact Scott Lepak at 763-780-8500.