In 2001, specifically July 12, 2001, the State of Illinois put in place legislation dealing with Nursing Mothers in the Workplace (820 ILCS 260/1, et seq.). This legislation required Employers, who had six (6) or more employees, to allow nursing mothers "reasonable unpaid break time each day" to express breast milk for their infant children. The Law also required that to provide this opportunity for nursing mothers, the Employer had to make "reasonable efforts to provide a room or other location in close proximity to the work area, other than a toilet stall, where the employee could express her milk in privacy." (820 ILCS 260/15)
Recently, Governor Rauner signed some amendments to the Nursing Mothers in the Workplace Act, which expands the obligations of Employers. Previously, the pre-amendment version of the Act only required that Employers provide "reasonable unpaid break time each day" to a female employee. The 2018 amendments to the Act now require that such breaks be provided on a "reasonable basis for one year after the child's birth" as needed by the nursing mother, but that such breaks "cannot reduce an employee's compensation for time used for the purpose of expressing milk or nursing a baby."
As well, the previous Act established that such breaks "could not unduly disrupt an Employer's operation." The revised Act now provides that the exception in the Illinois Human Rights Act of an "undue hardship" must be established by the Employer before it can refuse to provide these breaks. The obligation of establishing an "undue hardship" that is prohibitively expensive or disruptive to an Employer is the burden that the Employer must bear and is an extremely difficult standard to achieve.
Every Employer in the State of Illinois should be cognizant of the new amendments to the Nursing Mothers in the Workplace Act and make sure that they are in compliance with this revised law.
Questions? Contact Attorney Walter Liszka in our Chicago office at (312) 629-9300 or by email at [email protected].