HB 786 is designed to protect the rights of women who need to express breast milk while at work.  But it doesn’t cover all female workers—only those who work for a “public employer,” like a school district. Hourly workers in private industry already enjoy this protection due to a provision in the Affordable Care Act, which requires that private employers provide break time and adequate space for milk expression.  Now, public employees in Texas will enjoy that same protection.  The only ones left out are salaried employees in private business.

Schools will need to adopt policies to comply with this new law, so we are sure that TASB staff will provide a new policy for your board to consider. The policy must “support the practice of expressing breast milk” and “make reasonable accommodations” for the needs of the mothers who need to do this.

Specifically, your school will need to “provide a reasonable amount of break time for an employee to express breast milk each time the employee has need to express the milk.”  Also, the school will have to “provide a place, other than a multiple user bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion.”

This is a new right, but also a limited one.  The statute says that a school cannot discriminate against a person who asserts her rights under this statute; but it also says that the statute does not create a “private or state cause of action.” So, presumably, this new statute would authorize a nursing mother to file a local grievance, but not a lawsuit.

However, we expect an aggrieved party would cite federal sex discrimination laws in a lawsuit, rather than this statute.  After all, expressing milk is like pregnancy in that it is unique to one gender.  Furthermore, a suit could probably be brought if it seeks only declaratory relief or an injunction (along with attorneys’ fees, of course!).

But you won’t have to worry about any of that, as long as you comply with the law.  So make sure those nursing mothers are made welcome in your school building.  After all, I have heard from more than one mother that the whole sequence of pregnancy, childbirth and nursing is hard enough as it is.  Let’s not make it any harder.