Nursing mothers in NH may get more protections at work


New Hampshire Bulletin

Published: 06-24-2023 6:00 PM

Lawmakers have reached a compromise that would require many employers to give workers who are nursing breaks and space to pump breast milk. If Gov. Chris Sununu signs the legislation, the state, not federal labor officials, would investigate violations.

A deal looked uncertain when lawmakers first met this week to negotiate their concerns.

The protections passed the Senate twice this year but didn’t reach the House until early June, when senators attached them to an unrelated House bill. The full House objected and asked for an end-of-year “committee of conference” to discuss its concerns with the other chamber.

House Bill 358 as passed by the committee will require employers with six or more employees to provide nursing mothers a break of about 30 minutes to pump for every three hours of work. Employees would need a designated space other than a bathroom and be given those protections for the first year after the child’s birth.

The legislation, which would take effect in 2025, is similar to federal legislation that took effect in January, though the federal requirements apply to larger employers with 15 or more workers. The federal bill also does not specify the length of a break.

Employers in both cases are allowed to argue that complying is an undue burden.

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House members expressed concern the Senate’s proposal is vague in some areas, such as requiring the pumping space be “sufficient.” The legislation’s prime sponsor, Sen. Becky Whitley, a Hopkinton Democrat, said the business community had requested the flexibility to create a policy that suited their specific sites.