House Approves Protections for Breast-Feeding Moms

Patients wait to be seen at the People's Community Clinic in Austin, which provides state-subsidized women's health services to low-income women, in July 2014.
Patients wait to be seen at the People's Community Clinic in Austin, which provides state-subsidized women's health services to low-income women, in July 2014.

The Texas House on Thursday gave preliminary approval to a measure that would require public employers to provide accommodations for mothers who need to pump breast milk while at work.

House Bill 786, by state Rep. Armando Walle, D-Houston, easily passed on Thursday on a voice vote. The measure would require public employers — state agencies, local governments and public schools — to support the practice of expressing breast milk and make “reasonable accommodations” for female employees to do so.

Such accommodations include sufficient break time and a private room, other than a bathroom, for a woman to pump breast milk.

While federal law provides protections for hourly employees who need to express breast milk at work, it exempts salaried workers, including school teachers, Walle said. “HB 786 closes the loophole for salary employees who need to express breast milk,” Walle told the chamber.

Walle’s bill would also prohibit public employers from suspending, terminating or discriminating against employees who seek accommodations to express breast milk at work.

Forty percent of mothers who return to work choose to not breastfeed because they anticipate lacking accommodations at work, according to the Texas Breastfeeding Coalition.

If the measure receives final approval from the House, it will head to the Senate.

 

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