CONCORD — Protections for breastfeeding women are increased under a change to New Hampshire law that has been recommended by a legislative committee 18 to 0 as Ought to Pass, with amendment. It is on the House consent calendar this week.
“I’m thrilled,” said Kate Frederick, the woman whose efforts inspired the change.
She said the amended bill, which bars restricting a woman from breastfeeding her child, doesn’t include the original guarantees of paid or unpaid leave to breastfeed during work hours, but said: “The full bill was my wish list.”
Frederick said she sought the bill because she not only wanted to breastfeed her son, Devon, but also needed to breastfeed, for his health and hers. Frederick’s employer said he couldn’t allow her to take time during the work day to go to a nearby daycare site to nurse Devon, who wouldn’t take a bottle.
Frederick was working for the state as a child support officer in the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services in Conway.
She proposed that after her return from maternity leave in August 2013, instead of taking 15-minute breaks, she would take half-hour breaks, and make up the time at the end of the day.
Under the Affordable Care Act, her employer, like most, would have had to let her express or pump milk at work, but there was no provision for leaving work to go elsewhere to breastfeed.
She wouldn’t budge and neither would her employer, so she was terminated and went on unemployment. Frederick filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
She also set out to make sure the same thing didn’t happen to other women. Frederick spoke out whenever and wherever she could, including in print and on the radio, promoting protections for breastfeeding mothers.
Enter State Rep. Ed Butler, D-Carroll, who proposed a legislative solution.
HB 1571, as introduced in January, contained extensive protections for breastfeeding women, including the right to be excused from jury duty and the requirement that employers, with certain exceptions, provide space and opportunities for breastfeeding mothers for three years.
The bill went to the House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services, which reported out an amended version of the bill as Ought to Pass, by a vote of 18 to 0.
The bill information, as presented in the calendar, says the bill, as amended: “seeks to clarify and responsibly expand the right of a woman to breastfeed in any place open to the public.”
“The bill does not place any additional requirements or restrictions on private businesss.” according to Frederick, whose website is www.RustikEvents.com. She said she began the Rustik Baby Project to encourage not just breastfeeding women, but everyone to support her bill because it supports the health of babies.
She has put on her website sample letters women can use to negotiate with employers so they can continue to breastfeed their children after returning to work.