House Bill 786 Authored by Representative Walle
Co-authored by Representatives S. King, Hernandez, and Martinez Fischer
Breastfeeding mothers who return to work need time and a place to express breastmilk for later use by their infants, support for which is provided to hourly employees by federal law. HB 786 is intended to close a loophole in current law to provide support for public salaried employees.
Problem: Breastfeeding mothers lacking support to express milk (pump) at work are at risk of several health issues, as well as forced cessation of breastfeeding. The consequences of which are significant for the health of Texas babies and women. Forty percent of mothers who return to work opt not to breastfeed at all, in anticipation of lacking support. While some businesses do support working mothers who need to express milk; others do not.
HB 786 closes the loophole for salaried public employees
- Hourly employees are covered by Section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act and are entitled to breaks for milk expression. Some aspects of the FLSA do not apply to salaried employees, such as overtime. Salaried employees (including teachers) are exempt from Section 7 of the FLSA, and therefore do not receive the same protections afforded to hourly employees (including teacher’s aides).
- Under HB 786, public employers must provide reasonable accommodations for an employee to express breastmilk at the workplace.
- A public employer is prohibited from discriminating against an employee for expressing breastmilk at the workplace.
Benefits for Families
Pumping to mimic a baby’s schedule maintains supply, helps protect mothers from painful breast infections, reduces missed work and unnecessary expenses due to a child’s illness, and reduces excess expenditures from purchasing artificial milk. This is in addition to the many other health benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and child.
Benefits for Employers
- Employees are more likely to return to work and maintain attendance.
- Breastfed infants have reduced healthcare costs that result in lower medical insurance claims and premiums.
House Bill 786 will translate into significant health benefits for families and significant economic benefits for public employers.
Research Illustrating the Need for Support to
Express Breastmilk in the Workplace
The majority of mothers return to work after childbirth, and 40% of mothers are the breadwinners in their homes. It is vital to improving breastfeeding rates that these mothers be supported to express breastmilk at work.
“Evidence indicates that worksite breastfeeding support policies are most effective when they facilitate: (1) privacy for milk expression; (2) flexible scheduling and work options to accommodate.”
Women in the Labor Force: A Databook. Report 1011. US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2008.
Cardenas R, Major D: Combining employment and breastfeeding: utilizing a work-family conflict framework to understand obstacles and solutions. Journal of Business and Psychology, 2005; 20(1): 31-51.
“Parents – both mothers and fathers – whose infants are breastfed miss work less often. One-day absences to care for sick children occur more than twice as often for mothers of formula-fed infants.”
Cohen R, Mrtek MB, Mrtek RG: Comparison of maternal absenteeism and infant illness rates among breastfeeding and formula-feeding women in two corporations. American Journal of Health Promotion, 1995; 10 (2), 148-153.
“These preliminary findings suggest that lactation accommodations did not have negative repercussions for other employees, and that a corporate environment designed to enable and encourage continued breastfeeding does not endanger positive attitudes towards breastfeeding in other employees.”
Suyes K, Abrahams SW, Labbok MH: Breastfeeding in the workplace: other employees’ attitudes towards services for lactating mothers. International Breastfeeding Journal, 2008; 3:25. doi: 10.1186/1746-4358-3-25.
“We assessed the relationship between breastfeeding initiation and duration with laws supportive of breastfeeding enacted at the state level… Having a private area in the workplace to express breast milk… and having break time to breastfeed or pump… were also important for infant breastfeeding at 6 months.”
Smith-Gagen J, Hollen R, Tashiro S, et al. The association of state law to breastfeeding practices in the US. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 2014; 18(9):2034-43. doi: 10.1007/s10995-014-1449-4.