Yesterday, a bill that would provide further protections for mothers who need to nurse or express breast milk in the workplace passed the Maine House. Maine law currently requires employers to provide accommodations to employees who need to nurse or express breast milk but the penalties for failing to obey this law are very slight. Under the current law, employers face at most a $500 fine and there is nothing in the law that requires an employer to rehire an employee who was fired for expressing breast milk at work.
The bill currently under debate would amend the Maine Human Rights Act so that it would require employers to accommodate nursing mothers in the workplace. If an employer failed to accommodate a nursing mother, it could be held liable for damages it caused to the nursing mother and potentially punitive damages.
“Maine has a rich history of leading the nation on important civil rights protections, but nursing mothers have fallen through the cracks,” said Rep. Anne Graham, D-North Yarmouth, the bill’s sponsor. “Working mothers deserve full equality in the workplace.”