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As companies returned to work following the holidays, changes to Minnesota’s nursing mothers statute and pregnancy accommodations law (Minn. Stat. § 181.939) went into effect on January 1, 2022. Minnesota employers may want to take a moment to make sure their policies and practices are up to date.

Minnesota’s Nursing Mothers Statute Now Requires Paid Lactation Breaks

Minnesota law now requires an employer to provide “reasonable break times each day” for employees to express milk. Note that “times” is now plural. Previously, the law only required a single lactation break during the workday. With the amendment, the statute also states that “an employer shall not reduce an employee’s compensation for time used for the purpose of expressing milk.” In other words, breaks for the purpose of expressing milk are compensable under Minnesota law. Previously, the law required one unpaid break.

The nursing mothers statute requires employers (with one or more employees) to provide reasonable break times to express breast milk during the “first twelve months following the birth of the child.” This break time “must, if possible, run concurrently” with other rest and meal breaks. Under the law, an employer is not required to provide this break time if it would “unduly disrupt” the operations of the employer. As stated above, the break time now needs to be paid. The law also prohibits retaliation against employees who assert their right to required lactation breaks.

Minnesota Law Expands Coverage of Required Pregnancy Accommodations

The amendment also moves the statutory text of Minnesota’s pregnancy accommodation requirements (Minn. Stat. § 181.9414) into the nursing mothers statute (Minn. Stat. §181.939). With this move, the minimum number of employees required for the pregnancy accommodations law to be triggered changed to 15 employees (formerly 21 employees).

As a reminder, Minnesota’s law on pregnancy accommodations requires employers to provide certain accommodations to pregnant employees unless an accommodation would pose an undue hardship. The law lists several accommodations that an employee does not need a doctor’s note to request and that an employer cannot claim pose an undue hardship, including restroom or water breaks, seating, and a 20-pound lifting restriction. Retaliation against employees for requesting or obtaining a pregnancy accommodation is prohibited.

Key Takeaways

Companies may want to review their policies and practices on lactation breaks to ensure that they are providing the paid break time required under Minnesota’s amended law. Companies with between 15 and 20 employees might want to review their pregnancy accommodations policies to ensure that they are providing accommodations in compliance with the law, which now applies to them.

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