Employment Law Journal

Employees Given Right to Express Breast Milk in Workplace

By Bruce Voss

Hawaii employees now have an enforceable right to express breast milk in a private space at their work site, under a law passed by this year’s Hawaii Legislature.

Hawaii employers must provide (1) reasonable break time for any employee to express milk for the employee’s nursing child for one year after the child’s birth each time the employee has a need to express breast milk; and (2) a location, other than a restroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from co-workers, where the employee may express breast milk.

The new law does not apply to any employer who has fewer than 20 employees, if the employer can show the requirements would “impose an undue hardship by causing the employer significant difficulty or expense in relation to the size, financial resources, nature, or structure of the employer’s business.”  That exception imposes a high standard that most employers, regardless of size, will not be able to meet.

An employee who claims her employer has not complied with the law can bring a lawsuit for injunctive relief, damages, and recovery of attorneys’ fees.  An employer may also be fined $500 for each violation.

The law does not define or even suggest what is a “reasonable break time,” so employers and employees will have to work that out on a case-by-case basis.

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