The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Tennessee County Municipal Advisory Service

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Accommodating Nursing Mothers

Reference Number: MTAS-497
Tennessee Code Annotated
Reviewed Date: March 30, 2016
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On March 23, 2010, a new federal law was passed that requires employers to accommodate nursing mothers in the workplace. In addition to federal law, there are state laws to which your municipality should be adhering. This publication will guide you through state and federal laws that accommodate nursing mothers in the workplace. It also will provide information on employer best practices and frequently asked questions.

Effective July 31, 2011, the Tennessee legislature passed Chapter No. 91 (HB0871/ SB0083), which removes the age limit on children who can be breast-fed in public. This statute amends T.C.A. §§ 39-13-511 and 68-58-101 by removing the current 12-month age limit on children who can be legally breast-fed publicly. This does not change the federal law passed in 2010 that was part of health care reform.

In 2012, T.C.A. § 39-13-511 (d) was amended to expressly state that the definintion of “indecent exposure” does not apply to a mother who is breastfeeding her child in any location, public or private. T.C.A. § 39–13–517(a)(1) also states that “nudity” or “state of nudity” prohibited by that section does not include a mother in the act of nursing the mother's baby. 2012 Tennessee Laws Pub. Ch. 885 (H.B. 3257).

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), mothers are the fastest-growing segment of the United States workforce. The CDC shows that 70 percent of employed mothers with children younger than three years of age work full time. One third of these mothers return to work within three months of the child’s birth. Unlike the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s more new parents are choosing to breast-feed and are doing so for a myriad of reasons, primarily the well-documented health benefits, bonding and cost.