Wednesday, March 05, 2008

New Indiana Law Requires Accommodation of Nursing Mothers at Work

Check out the details here.

It covers employers of 25 or more employees and requires them "to provide a private place for an employee to express breast milk for her child and to provide some form of refrigeration to store the milk." The language of the act requies the provision of that private place, which must be a location other than a toilet stall, when "reasonably possible."

The press release makes the claim that the rate at which mothers nurse their infants falls by half after three months, due to the return of women to the workforce. That's a stark statistic if accurate.

But what of these new requirements? I'm sure any one of us could spin a hypothetical in which these requirements are pretty onerous (e.g., an workplace that is just a series of desks or cubicles on an open floorspace, so that the provision of a non-toilet stall private space would require the acquisition of additional space or the installation of walls). So, the rubber will hit the road in the interpretation of what is "reasonably possible."

3 Comments:

Blogger Dylan said...

It's interesting in all legislation when the language includes something along the lines of "when reasonably possible." Basically, anytime this language appears in legislation it can be interpreted somewhat as, "when you think someone may have any grounds at all to file a lawsuit based on this law." Alright, this may be oversimplifying, or perhaps over-complicating the matter, but if there is going to be new legislation on a subject that is likely to bring an opportunity for lawsuits against an employer, shouldn't there be more stringent requirements so an employer knows where they stand relative to the law? Perhaps the courts feel they are doing companies a favor by leaving the language somewhat vague and are therefore avoiding some backlash from employers where the law might be "unreasonable."

It seems that it might be more effective to require all employers with more than 25 employees to provide this area for employees who are mothers, and if the employer cannot "reasonably" comply, they must document their reasons and file them with the state. This may make more work for the state but ultimately will save time and money in court costs for the employer and the employee.

Perhaps these provisions could be applied to a number of laws with this kind of ambiguous language. The burden to decide if an employer is liable would be more on the state who creates the laws, and less on the conscience of an employer who's situation is unclear.

5:45 PM  
Blogger Abbey Stemler said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8:13 PM  
Blogger songbird said...

At face value I think this is a great law. However, it seems a bit premature. It seems that Indiana law needs to provide day care facilities before providing breast feeding stations. It is silly to allow breast feeding for a child that is not even at the work place. Unless the employers with over 25 employees allow new mothers to bring the infant to work or provide onsite childcare, the law is a nice attempt at supporting mothers, but ultimately and ineffective one.

This law is also breading ground for maternal discrimination. It is very plausible that employers would become angered at "reasonably accomidating"the mothers, and would begin to punish those using the facilities.Furthermore, mothers can't simply take a 5 minute work break to breast feed. The process is more involved than that, and mothers valuing the time spent with the child during feeding time will take longer breaks, which will take away from work time.

I honestly don't see this law bringing about more good than bad. I see employers being angry at money spent on "accomidations" as well as angered at time and money lost due to the mother's taking breaks throughout the day to feed the child. I am afraid that there will be a backlash on new mothers, resulting in more lawsuits.

It is a possibility, though, that employers will support this law and "accomidation" if it means that fewer women are taking the 12 weeks off for maternity leave. I think this is sad for the mother, but very beneficial for the employer.

I'm not sure whether this law is an infringement on work/life balance or an advocate for it. What do you guys think?

12:08 PM  

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