What Would the Lactation Support Act Mean for SC Employers?

January 29, 2019 - Pierce T. MacLennan

We recently highlighted the “Act to Establish Pay Equity,” which was spearheaded by the SC Women’s Rights & Empowerment Network (WREN).

Lactation Room SignWREN is also supporting the “South Carolina Lactation Support Act” that expands upon the Pregnancy Accommodations Act by providing nursing employees with the right to break time and private space to express milk in their workplaces. A key provision of the Lactation Support Act is that it would apply to all employers, regardless of the number of employees.

More specifically, the proposed legislation would require employers to provide reasonable break times to express milk and to make reasonable efforts to provide a lockable room or other location, other than the restroom, where the employee may privately express breastmilk, in close proximity to the employee’s work area. The bill states, “An employer may not discriminate against an employee for choosing to express breast milk in the workplace in compliance with the provisions of this section.” As proposed, violations of the Act would be redressed with the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission.

Although it states that it “will not require employers to compensate employees for breaks taken to express milk,” I find the Lactation Support Act’s overall language on compensation confusing and problematic. For instance, the aforementioned sentence goes on to state “unless the employer already provides compensated breaks” and then later states the employer “shall permit an employee to use paid break time or meal time each day.”

I am uncertain if the Lactation Support Act will pass in this session, but hopeful the bill will clarify the compensation issue. In addition, future amendments or regulations could expand upon what is considered “reasonable” for break times and locations.

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