Employers must abide by both federal and state laws regarding workplace accommodations for employees who are also nursing mothers. Where state laws provide employees greater protections, as is generally the case in Colorado, they take precedence over federal regulations. However, Colorado’s state law applies to more employers than federal law.
Essentially, both state and federal laws require employers to provide nursing mothers with a private place to express milk and reasonable break time in which to do so. Colorado state law requires employers to make a reasonable effort to provide an employee with a private location close to her work area where she can express milk privately. This is similar to the federal requirement, which further states that the area need not be a permanent installation and that employers need not provide it until there is a need. However, both laws state explicitly that a restroom or toilet stall is not a suitable location.
Coverage and Enforcement
Federal law requires companies and organizations with more than 50 employees to provide accommodations and reasonable break time for nursing mothers to express milk for up to one year after a baby’s birth. However, Colorado state law requires those employing at least one person to make accommodations as needed for up to two years after a baby’s birth. This applies to both public and private employers. However, both federal and state laws exempt employers from accommodation requirements if they can demonstrate that abiding by them would impose an undue hardship.
In the event of a possible violation, state law requires nonbinding mediation between employer and employee before the matter can go to court.
Colorado law gives employers the option of either permitting employees to use paid break time to express milk or providing reasonable unpaid break time for the purpose on a daily basis. Federal law further stipulates that employees who use paid break time to express milk must receive the same compensation that they would otherwise.
In most respects, the accommodations required by Colorado law are similar and at times more stringent than the federal requirements. However, it is important to observe the differences and comply with state law where there is a discrepancy in the employee’s favor.