(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Bob Andrzejczak and Elizabeth Muoio to make it illegal for employers to discriminate against women who choose to breastfeed or express milk in the workplace received final legislative approval Monday and now heads to the governor’s desk.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months. The benefits of breastfeeding extend well beyond basic nutrition. In addition to containing all the vitamins and nutrients a baby needs in the first six months of life, breast milk is packed with disease-fighting substances that protect babies from illness.
“Mothers don’t stop being mothers when they get to work,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “The benefits of breastfeeding babies, especially during the first six months, are undisputable. No woman should ever be shamed for, or prevented from feeding her child the best food possible. This allows working women to breastfeed or pump at work without fear of repercussions.”
“Breast milk is the ideal first food for babies. Rather than discourage it, employers should help make it easier for nursing women to provide for their babies while at work,” said Andrzejczak (D- Cape May/Atlantic/Cumberland) “Staying home after having a baby is not a luxury many working women enjoy. This ensures that women who are breastfeeding can continue to do so while at work.”
“Mothers who nurse their babies often worry about what returning to work will do to their milk supply. The more a mother nurses, the more milk her body produces,” said Muoio (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “Allowing women to nurse or pump while at work can help nursing mothers maintain their breastmilk which is the optimal food for babies especially during the early months.”
The bill (A-2294) would expand certain civil rights protections under the “Law Against Discrimination” to include breastfeeding and expressing milk or related medical conditions. Under this bill, it would be a civil rights violation for a working woman to be fired or otherwise discriminated against because of breastfeeding or expressing her milk during breaks.
The bill would also require an employer to provide reasonable break time each day and a suitable location for an employee who is breastfeeding to express her milk in private.
The bill would take effect immediately.
The bill was approved 70-0 by the Assembly on Dec. 7, and 35-0 today by the Senate.