House Approves Bill Protecting Lactating School Employees
Mike Seals - April 14, 2021 10:54 pm
OKLAHOMA CITY – Legislation protecting the rights of lactating school employees was approved by the Oklahoma House of Representatives today.
Senate Bill 121, authored by Sen. Carri Hicks, D-Oklahoma City, and Rep. Toni Hasenbeck, R-Elgin, would require school districts to adopt policies allowing employees who are lactating to take paid break times to maintain their milk supplies.
“We need to do a better job of supporting our working mothers, and Senate Bill 121 takes an important step by ensuring mothers working for school districts have access to clean, safe and peaceful areas to pump,” Hasenbeck said. “As a woman who had children while working in education, I know firsthand the difficulty these mothers face daily to both provide nutritious milk for their newborn and educate their young students. We need to work to remove the deterrents that force many working mothers to prematurely choose between maintaining their job and maintaining their milk supply, and I believe Senate Bill 121 will make a significant difference for these hardworking, dedicated employees and mothers.”
Both Hasenbeck and Hicks are former educators who had children while employed by a school district.
“As a teacher, I know firsthand the challenges of balancing the demands of the classroom and being able to provide breastmilk for my young. I had three children while I was teaching and I’m incredibly fortunate to have had administrators who understood the challenges and made reasonable accommodations for staff,” Hicks said. “Nursing is one of the best ways to ensure a child’s early health, but it takes work and our schools need to follow the state’s lead in providing clean, comfortable locations for mothers to pump while at work. I’m excited to see this bill move to the governor’s desk and know this will make a tremendous difference in the lives of so many working mothers and their babies.”
Under the measure, the break time could run concurrently with any break time already provided to the employee. Schools would be required to make a reasonable effort to provide a private, secure and sanitary room or other location, other than a toilet stall, for employees to express milk or breastfeed.
SB121 passed the House 89-3 and now moves to the Governor’s desk, where it will be considered to be signed into law.