Focus on New Laws: Nursing Breaks and Pregnancy Accommodations

October 4, 2021

A new law includes provisions requiring employers to provide certain accommodations to nursing and pregnant women.

Under a new law, First Special Session Chapter 10, employers must provide nursing mothers with paid break time to express milk, as well as certain reasonable accommodations to pregnant women. The new requirements take effect Jan. 1, 2022.

Paid nursing breaks

The new law requires all employers with one or more employees to provide reasonable, paid break times for nursing mothers to express milk during the 12 months after childbirth, unless it would cause undue business disruption.

The paid breaks are required to run concurrently with any break times already provided to the employee (i.e., if the employer already provides paid break times, these should be used to express milk).

Most cities were already required to provide unpaid breaks for nursing mothers, but the new law requires the breaks now must be offered as paid time. The previous law offered no timeframe on how long the nursing breaks could run from the birth of the child. The new Minnesota law narrows the breaks to the first 12 months following the child’s birth and mirrors federal statutes.

Pregnancy accommodations

Minnesota law also previously required providing reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees, including more frequent restroom, food, and water breaks; seating arrangements; and limits on lifting more than 20 pounds.  However, this new section of law applies these pregnancy accommodations to employers with 15 or more employees (vs. 21 or more under previous law).

There is also no longer any requirement that the employee must work at least half-time for one year; thus, employees are eligible for the accommodations immediately upon hire under the new law. Employers cannot claim undue hardship for these specific accommodations, nor require a doctor’s note from the employee.

The new law also defines “reasonable accommodation” as including a temporary transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position. An employer is not, however, required to create a new or additional position in order to accommodate an employee, and is specifically not required to promote an employee or discharge or transfer another employee with greater seniority to make the accommodation.

The law prohibits an employer from requiring an employee to take a leave or accept an accommodation and from retaliation against an employee for asserting their rights under the law.

Sample policy

Cities not already providing paid breaks for nursing mothers, as well as the other required accommodations, will need to begin doing so no later than Jan. 1, 2022, ideally by adopting a written policy. The League’s Personnel Policy template may be a helpful tool as you update your city policies.

View the Personnel Policy Template (doc)

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