Legislature tackles milk expressing laws in the workplace

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Legislature tackles milk expressing laws in the workplace
By J.L. Wilson
Associated Oregon Industries
Oregon’s largest business advocate

2/17/2010 — The most significant employment-related issue of the past week was a legislative vetting of HB 2038, which conforms Oregon’s expression of milk in the workplace law to new federal mandates contained in the 2010 federal health care reform law. The House Human Services Committee began taking up the bill earlier this week.

Currently, under Oregon law, mothers can express milk in the workplace for up to 30 minutes for each four hour time period of work. Such breaks are unpaid. The Oregon law applies only to companies with 25 or more employees. A company of any size may apply for an undue hardship exemption.

The new federal law is considerably more stringent. Under the federal law, an employer must provide a reasonable rest period to express milk each time the employee has a need to express milk. The new federal regulations apply to even small companies with fewer than 25 employees, and no company with more than 50 employees may apply for an undue hardship exemption.

AOI understands that federal supersedes state law, and that generally, state conformity with federal law is advantageous for employers because it allows for ease of administration. But AOI expressed disappointment that Oregon tends to gravitate to employment regulations that impose the greatest possible burden on employers.

However, since the new federal nursing mother regulations are contained in the federal health care reform law which is currently undergoing several federal court challenges, AOI is pressing for an amendment which would repeal HB 2038 if the new federal health care law is struck down by the courts.