“There is no nutrient as important to an infant as breast milk,” said House Speaker Jeff Merkley (D-Portland). “This bill gives nursing mothers more opportunities to provide that nourishment to their children and that is something we should encourage in as many ways as possible.”
The bill as passed requires businesses of 25 or more employees to accommodate the expression of breast milk in the workplace. They must provide a clean and private area and unpaid break time for their nursing employees. Under the bill, employers may negotiate different terms if those requirements would impose an undue hardship. The bill requires only that employees be allowed to express their breast milk; it does not require that mothers be allowed to actually nurse their children in the workplace.
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Three members of the Human Services Committee opposed the bill as it was originally introduced, but eventually it passed that committee on a unanimous vote. In total, 18 amendments were offered by Rep. Tomei and approved by the committee to gain broader support for the bill.
“Carolyn Tomei deserves the credit for shepherding this bill through the House,” said Merkley. “Let me also extend my thanks and congratulations to Rep. Diane Rosenbaum, Diane Garrett and the Nursing Mothers Counsel for their years of hard work on this bill. It has all paid off today.”
The bill is expected to clear the Oregon Senate before the end of the legislative session.