Christie signs law for greater breastfeeding protections

Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill into law Monday that requires all employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees who are breastfeeding.

The legislation, sponsored by state Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck) and Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Newark), places the protection of the rights under workplace discrimination laws to include breastfeeding and expressing milk.

“It is widely recognized that breast milk is the most nutritious food for an infant and offers a wide range of benefits to the nursing mother and child,” Weinberg said. “New mothers who choose to breastfeed should be protected from discrimination by their employers and given accommodations that allow them to do so in private at their workplace.”

Under the law, it will be a civil rights violation for an employee to be fired or discriminated against because of break time or space accommodation needed to breastfeed.

“Mothers don’t stop being mothers when they get to work,” said Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Englewood), a sponsor of the Assembly version. “The benefits of breastfeeding babies, especially during the first six months, are undisputable.

“No woman should ever be shamed for, or prevented from, feeding her child the best food possible. This allows working women to breastfeed or pump at work without fear of repercussions.”

Current laws exist, as part of the Affordable Care Act, that provide protections for breastfeeding already, but they only cover companies with 50 or more employees.

“No food offers more health benefits to a baby than breast milk,” Ruiz said. “We must ensure that new mothers returning to work have the ability to breastfeed, and that no woman is harassed, fired or provided restrictive accommodations for expressing milk for their child.

“This law will make clear that nursing mothers have a right to pump during the workday and that their employers must provide them a suitable space for that purpose.”