A bill in the Texas legislature that would mandate government employers provide accommodations for working mothers who pump breast milk, is one step closer to final passage in the State House of Representatives. A voice vote on the measure sailed through the House on Thursday on a second reading and appears on its way to passing.
Rep. Armando Walle (D-Houston) is the author of H.B. 786. The bill applies to “public employers” which includes county, city, and other political subdivisions of the state and school districts. It also applies to a board, commission, office, department, or another agency in the executive, judicial, or legislative branch of state government, including an institution of higher education.
The bill provides that a public employer shall develop a written policy that states the employer supports the practice of expressing breast milk, and must make reasonable accommodations for the needs of employees who express milk.
A public employer must provide a reasonable amount of break time for an employee to express milk each time the employee has need to express the milk, and must provide a private place, other than a bathroom, where the employee can express milk.
A public employer could not suspend or terminate an employee, or otherwise discriminate against an employee who asserts their rights under this policy.
Federal law protects employees who need to express milk at work, but exempts salaried workers which includes school teachers. Waller told his fellow House members that “HB 786 closes the loophole for salary employees who need to express breast milk.”
Walle presented a bill in 2013 that passed through the Texas State House but never reached it out of the Senate Committee.
Walle has said that mothers, their children, and employers can benefit from the significant health and economic benefits that come with breastfeeding.
Witnesses who testified before the House Committee included representatives from Texans Care for Children, the Texas State Employees Union, the Texas Classroom Teachers Association, and Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies of Central Texas.
If passed by the Legislature, the law would be effective September 1st of this year.
Lana Shadwick is a contributing writer and legal analyst for Breitbart Texas. Follow her on Twitter @LanaShadwick2