Should federally owned or leased buildings be required to provide private lactation spaces for nursing mothers who visit them? Some lawmakers in the House believe they should.
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) recently reintroduced legislation (H.R. 1174) to impose the requirement on federal buildings. Under current federal law, employers are required to provide a designated, non-bathroom space for employees to pump breastmilk for their newborns, but her legislation would extend this requirement to visitors and guests to federal facilities.
Norton had previously introduced the bill in a past session of Congress, but it ultimately failed to become law. This time around, the bill has once again passed the House, but now needs to find a sponsor in the Senate, something which Norton is actively pursuing.
Norton said in a statement:
The benefits of breastfeeding are well-documented, and federal policy has long encouraged nursing. Considering millions of people visit federal sites across the country, and particularly here in the nation’s capital, visiting nursing mothers should also have access to dedicated lactation spaces they need to safely pump breastmilk for their newborns. My bill does not require new federal funds or new or exclusive spaces to be permanently set aside only for lactation, only that space must be available as needed. I was pleased to see my bill pass the House last Congress, and I look forward to getting bipartisan support once again for this important legislation.
This is not the first time the federal government has addressed breast feeding in agencies. As we reported several years ago, President Obama issued a memo delegating authority to OPM to establish breast feeding programs in federal agencies. (See Federal Employees as Nursing Mothers: Changing the Culture in the Federal Workplace)
A recent effort also related to raising children has to do with providing paid parental leave to federal employees. There was a concerted effort under the former administration to enact paid parental leave for federal employees for the birth or adoption of a child. President Obama issued a memo directing agencies to issue advanced sick leave for time off after having a child, and some lawmakers are pushing to have a law granting six weeks of paid parental leave for federal employees. Efforts to enact the paid parental leave legislation have thus far not passed.