This post was written by Sara Dale-Bley, IBCLC, RLC. She facilitates breastfeeding support group at The Family Room for free, Wednesdays 1-2:30.
Did you know that there are 3 state laws that protect your right to breastfeed a child in Colorado? The laws cover breastfeeding in public, workplace accommodations to express milk, and postponement of jury duty for breastfeeding parents.
In 2004 the state legislature enacted the first of these three laws with Colorado Revised Statutes § 25-6-301 and § 25-6-302 recognizing the importance of breastfeeding and stating that a mother may breastfeed in any place she has a right to be. Part of the impetus behind this legislation was an attempt to advocate and provide governmental support for the removal of societal barriers to breastfeeding that many families have faced in years past. Anywhere that a nursing parent is legally allowed to be, they can breastfeed their child without being asked to cover up or move. This state legislation expanded the 1999 Federal Right to Breastfeed Act which stated that "Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a woman may breastfeed her child at any location in a Federal building or on Federal property, if the woman and her child are otherwise authorized to be present at the location."
Another step forward in breastfeeding rights in Colorado was the passage of the Workplace Accommodations for Nursing Mothers Act in 2008, CRS § 8-13.5-101 et seq. This law established that all employers must provide reasonable unpaid break time, or allow an employee to use paid break and/or meal time to express milk for up to 2 years after a child's birth. The law requires employers to make reasonable efforts to ensure that the accommodations are in close proximity to the employee's work area, and establishes that breastfeeding employees cannot be discriminated against for expressing milk at work.
Workplace accommodations rights were expanded with the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2010. Because many states, like Colorado, had existing legislation addressing workplace support for expressing milk, the Federal law was written stipulating that whichever provision of either law provided greater protection for the EMPLOYEE is the one that will be applied. In Colorado, parts of our state law are stronger, and parts of the Federal law are stronger.
1. Our state law provides coverage for all employees whether they are salaried or hourly, therefore all employees in Colorado are covered.
2. Our state law stipulates that accommodations must be provided for 2 years after a child's birth. Because the Federal law specifies that accommodations be provided for only 1 year, the CO law is stronger and employers must provide accommodations for 2 years.
3. Although our state law says that employers must make “reasonable efforts” to find a space for parents to express milk that isn't shared with a working toilet, the Federal law is firm on this provision. Because the Federal law provides greater employee protection, accommodations in CO must be somewhere that isn't sharing space with a working toilet.
4. Both the CO and Federal laws apply to every employer in Colorado! However, some employers claim that they would experience “undue hardship” if required to provide accommodations. Our state law says that any employer is within their rights to apply to the Department of Labor to prove undue hardship. Luckily, the Federal law wins out with this provision as well. Only employers with fewer than 50 employees can even apply for, and provide proof of, undue hardship, and even then they must reapply each time an employee requests accommodations.
Lastly, in 2015 our legislature passed the Postponement of Jury Service for a Person Who is Breastfeeding a Child Act, Colorado Revised Statutes, 13-71-119.5. This law establishes that a person who is breastfeeding a child is eligible for two, 12-month postponements of jury service. Documentation can be requested by the judge or jury commissioner to support the postponement request. Call or email your county's jury commissioner for specifics.
What should you do if you feel your family's rights are being violated? Contact your state and local breastfeeding coalition for support and guidance. The Colorado Breastfeeding Coalition can be reached at 1-844-COBFC-4U or info@COBFC.org. Contact information for regional coalitions around the state can be found at the CO Department of Public Health and Environment website: https://www.colorado.gov/cdphe/colorado-breastfeeding-coalition.