NJBIA opposed a bill this week that would require employers to provide overreaching accommodations to an employee who is breastfeeding.
Bill A-795, which was posted for a full Assembly vote on Monday but not acted upon, would require employers to provide paid breaks, job restructuring, and modified work schedules to breastfeeding employees for as long as the employees desired.
Current law already provides that employers provide reasonable break time accommodations to breastfeeding women in the workplace.
“We support the intent of the legislation and will continue to work with the sponsors to ensure there are adequate accommodations for women in the workplace, while maintaining balance in implementation for the business community,” said NJBIA Chief Government Affairs Officer Chrissy Buteas.
“As currently written, the legislation goes far beyond providing workplace accommodations that are already in law and creates an indefinite and overreaching mandate on New Jersey’s business community.”
In written testimony to the Assembly, NJBIA Director of Government Affairs Alexis Bailey said the bill’s requirement that all breaks be paid at the employee’s regular rate of compensation can go far beyond current federal wage and hour standards and an employer’s individual break policy.
“Breastfeeding employees may require two to three breaks in a typical 8-hour shift that could add up to an 1-1 ½ hours of time spent not completing job duties for which an employer must compensate the employee,” Bailey said.
The legislation also requires businesses to provide modified work schedules and job restructuring as part of breastfeeding accommodations. Bailey said that language is ambiguous and easily has the potential to be overreaching.
“For example, an employee could theoretically request to work from home or start or end their workday outside of typical business hours as part of a modified schedule or job restructuring,” Bailey said. “This could present challenges for employers and their business operations as employer work settings, operating procedures and needs vary across industries and business sizes. As we often see, one size fits all mandates are very problematic operationally on our companies.
“Employers in our state already work with their staff on an individual basis to provide adequate accommodations for various medical issues, including breastfeeding break times and private spaces currently required by law to support the employee needing an accommodation, as well as the needs of the business and the rest of the workforce. This vague language is not necessary and has the potential to create an imbalance in the employee/employer relationship,” Bailey said.
Further, the bill requires an employee be entitled to the numerous accommodations in the law for as long as they desire, which goes far beyond the federal requirement of one year after the birth of a child for breastfeeding accommodations, which were established under the Reasonable Break Time for Nursing Mothers provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Bailey said there are only four states (Washington, Oregon, Colorado and Maine) that surpass the federal one-year standards, but with finite time limit, maxing out at three years.
“This lack of finite time limits creates uncertainty for employers, which is always something that should be avoided.,” Bailey said.
New Jersey is already ranked as one of the most protective states in the nation for lactating employees according to the Pregnancy Accommodation Working Group, an initiative of the Center of WorkLife Law at the University of California, Hastings College of Law.