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Minnesota Women's Legislative Timeline

Significant Legislation Passed by the Minnesota Legislature Since Suffrage

1998 - Accommodations for Nursing Mothers 

Synopsis: Minnesota passed the country's first law requiring employers to provide accommodations for nursing mothers who need to express breast milk. (Laws 1998, Chapter 369)

Legislative History: The 1998 law requires that any employer who employs one or more employee must provide reasonable unpaid time and space for the purpose of expressing breast milk. The time for expressing milk should coincide with already scheduled break time and the facility for expressing milk should be somewhere other than a bathroom. Additionally, the law revises the indecent exposure statute to confirm that public breastfeeding is not indecent exposure.

Historical Context: In the 1990s, state legislatures around the country were faced with revising antiquated laws prohibiting breastfeeding in public. At the same time, medical groups such as the American Academy of Pediatrics began recommending breastfeeding as an optimal source of nutrition for babies. With the majority of mothers working full time, states inevitably took on the challenge of balancing the needs of employers and the needs of working/nursing mothers. Florida was the first state to provide state recommendations for employers to support the expressing of breast milk at the workplace, but this 1994 law did not require employers to make accommodations. Minnesota's 1998 law was the first law in the country to require unpaid break time and a reasonable location for expressing breast milk. As of 2011, 24 states have workplace laws protecting the rights of women to express breast milk. In March of 2010, President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law. This law represents the federal government's first legislation protecting the workplace rights of nursing mothers. The federal law covers only non-exempt employees (hourly) and allows employers with fewer than 50 employees to opt out of the requirement if it imposes undue hardship. But the law does state that where a state law affords more protection for women (such as in Minnesota's law), the state law supercedes the federal law.

Selected Resources
Breastfeeding Laws. Denver, CO: National Conference of State Legislatures, Updated September 2015.

Fact Sheet #73: Break Time for Nursing Mothers under the FLSA. Washington, DC: United States Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division, Revised August 2013.

This is a joint project of the LCC Office on the Economic Status of Women and the Legislative Reference Library.  The project is made possible by the Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund through the vote of Minnesotans on Nov. 4, 2008. Administered by the Minnesota Historical Society.

MNHS Legacy Grant Receipient Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment