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Utah County makes it easier for its employees to breastfeed on the clock

Amelia Powers Gardner, the county’s first female commissioner, pushes for the change to bring an antiquated policy up to date.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Amelia Powers Gardner stands for a portrait after being sworn in as Utah County commissioner in Provo on Thursday, April 29, 2021. Powers Gardner proposed a resolution Thursday, Aug. 18, 2021, updating the county's break time policy for nursing employees.

Utah County employees who are nursing now can take more breaks at work to pump or breastfeed after commissioners unanimously voted Thursday to update the county’s policy.

For the past two years, Commissioner Amelia Powers Gardner said she has breastfed her daughter, who has “come to work with me quite a bit.”

“What I realized,” Gardner said, “is if I had been beholden to the policy that we, as a county, have for our employees, I would not have been able to successfully nurse my daughter.”

Gardner proposed a resolution Thursday at the County Commission meeting to update the county’s policy because, she said, “I wanted to make sure that every woman in this county had the opportunity to nurse their child the way that I had the opportunity as an elected official.”

Previously, the county allowed employees to take work breaks for up to one year after giving birth to nurse or pump breast milk. That time limit was removed in Gardner’s resolution, and breaks are now allowed “as needed.”

If a nursing employee needs breaks beyond the usual times for lunch and rest at work, they may be paid during their additional breaks, according to the revised policy. In the original policy, this extra time was unpaid.

Refrigerators also must be provided for employees to temporarily store breast milk.

“Rooms designated for nursing mothers shall be easily accessible to nursing mothers,” the new policy states, “and designed to provide a comfortable and welcoming environment.”

Gardner’s fellow commissioners, Bill Lee and and Tom Sakievich, joined her in approving the updated policy, which took effect immediately.

“This is nothing revolutionary,” Gardner told them. “This is a policy that I had at Caterpillar 15 years ago when I had my first child.

“I’ve been able to successfully nurse all three of my children,” she said, “because of policies from my employers that allowed me to provide for both the nourishment of my child and have a thriving career.”

The county’s previous policy “was quite antiquated,” according to Gardner, “and while it fulfilled the minimum federal guidelines, it fell way short of those private-sector best practices that supported me.”

These updates bring the county “up to date,” she said, and “ensure every working mother is supported in their personal choice.”

Commissioners also approved a resolution proposed by Gardner in support of National Breastfeeding Month in August. The resolution states that the board “universally rejects any and all efforts to stigmatize or place an undue burden on breastfeeding mothers in the workplace or otherwise.”

Gardner is the first woman to serve on the Utah County Commission, and she was sworn in earlier this year. She previously served as the county’s clerk/auditor.

Becky Jacobs is a Report for America corps member and writes about the status of women in Utah for The Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here.

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