Expanded Protection for Nursing Mothers in Illinois
As of August 21, 2018, the Nursing Mothers in the Workplace Act, 820 ILCS 260, has been amended to provide that Illinois employers that are subject to the Act must provide reasonable break time whenever the employee needs to express milk. The break time may (but not “must”) run concurrently with break time already provided.
The most significant change in amended law is that the employer “may not reduce an employee’s compensation for time used for the purpose of expressing milk or nursing a baby.” Finally, the amended law substitutes the “undue hardship” standard for the previous “unduly disrupt the employer’s operations” standard as the bar an employer must meet in order to be excused from granting the requested break time. This likely poses a higher burden that an employer must show in order to deny time under the Act.
No explanatory guidance on the amendment has been issued to date. In the absence of such guidance, the prudent employer will provide reasonable paid break time to nursing mothers for the first year after the birth of the child. Experience with the “undue hardship” standard in the context of other employment laws requiring reasonable accommodations instructs that the bar to meet that standard is a high one.