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Illinois Nursing Mothers in the Workplace Act now requires paid breaks

2018-08-30

Changes require employers to provide “reasonable break time” and may not reduce compensation for time used for expressing milk or nursing a baby

Even though the Illinois Nursing Mothers in the Workplace Act has been around since 2001, it has only required that employers provide unpaid nursing or lactation breaks for working mothers.  However, on August 21, 2018, Governor Rauner signed House Bill 1595 amending the Act, effectively immediately, requiring employers to provide paid breaks to mothers who breastfeed or express milk at work.  The Act applies to employers with more than five employees.  “Reasonable break time” – time an employee needs to express milk – must be honored for up to one year after the child’s birth. 

The Act previously stated that breaks provided to working mothers “must, if possible, run concurrently with any break time already provided to the employee.”  The amended Act changes the word “must” to “may.”  It also states that an employer “may not reduce an employee’s compensation for the time used for the purpose of expressing milk or nursing a baby.”  The Act continues to obligate employers to make reasonable efforts to provide a room or other location in close proximity to the employee’s work area – other than a toilet stall – where they can express milk in privacy. 
The Act has an “undue hardship” exemption which is defined as an “action that is prohibitively expensive or disruptive” when considering its nature and cost, the overall financial resources of the facility, the overall financial resources of the employers, and the type of operation of the employer.  A more significant burden is placed on the employer to meet the exemption.

When implementing these changes, it is important to take into consideration both the Illinois Act and the FLSA when determining all breaks, including meal breaks.  

The foregoing has been prepared for the general information of clients and friends of Workplace Dynamics LLC and is not being represented as being all-inclusive or complete. It has been abridged from legislation, administrative ruling, agency directives, and other information provided by the government. It is not meant to provide legal advice with respect to any specific matter and should not be acted upon without professional counsel.