Public Breastfeeding Law

68-58-101. Right to breastfeed in any location. —

A mother has a right to breastfeed her child in any location, public or private, where the mother and child are otherwise authorized to be present.


The act of breastfeeding shall not be considered:
(1) Public indecency as defined in §39-13-511; or
(2) Nudity, obscene, or sexual conduct as defined in §39-17-901.
A unit of local government shall not prohibit breastfeeding in public
by local ordinance.

Enforcement Provision


Workplace Pumping Law

Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-1-305
1999 Tn. ALS 161; 1999 Tenn. Pub. Acts 161; 1999 Tn. Pub. Ch. 161; 1999 Tn. SB 1856
(a) An employer shall provide reasonable unpaid break time each day to an employee who needs to express breast milk for her infant child. The break time shall, if possible, run concurrently with any break time already provided to the employee. An employer shall not be required to provide break time under this section if to do so would unduly disrupt the operations of the employer.
(b) The employer shall make reasonable efforts to provide a room or other location in close proximity to the work area, other than a toilet stall, where the employee can express her breast milk in privacy. The employer shall be held harmless if reasonable effort has been made to comply with this subsection.
(c) For the purposes of this section, “employer” means a person or entity that employs one (1) or more employees and includes the state and its political subdivisions.

Enforcement Provision


33 Responses to “Tennessee”

  1. ali says:

    I thought that the law no longer had an age limit. I could be wrong. Anyone know?


    • admin says:

      There was a bill to remove the age limit but I believe it didn’t pass. If you can find the bill passed, let me know. I thought the age limit was removed but when I looked up the statute again, it was still there. :(

    • I work at Amazon. I have been employed there 2 years. I had my son In August 2013 went back to work after my leave. Been breastfeeding the whole time. I switched departments. There are roughly 5 of us breastfeeding. There is one room. And its a conflict with schedule to where I and another girl go to Break at the same time and have to pump. Well I was given a verbal final written. For time off task for pumping if it happens again I will be let go. I was just now informed after pumping for almost 9months. that I had to clock out if I went after break even though it is not my fault that they have one room for us when breaks are the same time.

      • admin says:

        While Tennessee’s workplace pumping law does not have an enforcement provision, I would recommend contacting the state Department of Labor.

  2. Shelly R. says:

    It did pass and became effective on July 1, 2011. The public chapter (linked to above) is what is law after a bill passes but before the changes are put in the Tennessee Code Annotated. I can assure you 100% that the age restriction has been removed.

  3. Cindy says:

    (NASHVILLE, TN), April 26, 2011 – Legislation which authorizes mothers to publicly breastfeed a child beyond the current 12-month age limit without being prosecuted for public indecency has been signed into law by Governor Bill Haslam. The proposal, Senate Bill 83, is sponsored by Senator Mike Faulk (R-Church Hill) and Representative Harry Brooks (R-Knoxville).

  4. Nioka says:

    Do the same laws apply to breast pumping?

    • admin says:

      Do you mean public breastfeeding laws? No. Though I have known women to pump in public, it is generally not legally protected. However, the only law against it that I can think of is public indecency which may or may not cover this. When it comes to pumping (and breastfeeding), ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

  5. Ciara says:

    The law regarding expressing milk @ work is a bit disappointing. How can I expect my needs to match up with the crazy times my job wants to schedule a break?

  6. Larissa says:

    Am I reading the laws on pumping correctly that the location that the employer provides for you to pump should be a place that is not located in a bathroom?

    • admin says:

      Technically, Tennessee law says “other than a toilet stall” which leaves open the possibility that a bathroom that has both stalls and another private area would be acceptable as long as there is space to pump outside of the toilet stall itself. Not a particularly well-written statute. :(

  7. Ann says:

    My work has a room for breast feeding mothers but it is halfway on the other side of the hospital that I work at. I was told that I wouldn’t be allowed the time to walk to this room and pump during my shift. Instead I was told to pump in a side room, only to find out that this room had a security camera in it that was turned on the entire time. So the entire time I was pumping I was being watched (and recorded ) on a security camera.
    I have met with a lot of resistance to the idea of pumping at work and keep being told to pump in the staff bathroom.

    What recourse is available to me?

    • admin says:

      Being video recorded without your consent while you pump is a violation of your right to privacy regardless of the state workplace pumping law. On that issue alone, I would contact a local employment lawyer. This is akin to hidden cameras in workplace bathrooms – a surprisingly common legal violation.

  8. Lola says:

    I work in a large retail chain store whose bathrooms and refridgerators are only used by the teen-aged employees; they are disgusting and highly unsanitary. I realize that the law requires a reasonable attempt at providing a clean place to pump (and hopefully store) milk, but if these conditions are not met, what can I do? Can I claim exemption from the 30 day period I have to work after my maternity leave is over due to failure to comply with this law? (The 30 day period required by FMLA law that declares that you have “returned to work” so you do not have to pay back insurance premiums, should you decide not to come back to work.)

    • admin says:

      The FMLA is a federal law entirely unconnected to any workplace pumping law.

      • Lola says:

        If my workplace was unable to provide a clean and private space to pump, what are my options? The law says that they “shall” make an effort, but it doesn’t fault them if the effort is reasonable. If it is unreasonable, what can I do? And what exactly constitutes a reasonable effort?

  9. Larissa says:

    I have another question. I was just reading the federal laws on workplace expression of breast milk, which state that the employer shall provide a space other than a bathroom. The federal laws indicate that they do not preempt state laws when state laws provide for greater protection to the breastfeeding mother. Does this also work the other way around? As in, since the federal law provides for an area other than the bathroom, can a mother argue this law over TN state law in this regard?

    • admin says:

      Larissa, read the Federal Law page on this site. ALL state law on workplace pumping is stronger than federal law because federal law has no enforcement provision except if the woman is fired in which case she can get lost wages. Federal law does not give any government agency the power to force an employer to provide pump space or breaks.

  10. Larissa says:

    So, in the case where the state law also has no enforcement provision (TN), state law is still stronger than federal law? I imagine it is difficult for a woman to continue breastfeeding for any employer who knows these laws and their gross limitations…

  11. Jake Marcus says:

    In the case of Tennessee, you are pretty much in the same situation. The wording of Tennessee’s law is no stronger than the federal one and they are both equally unenforceable. If you are fired, you can bring a claim for lost wages under the federal law.

    Employers know the limitations of these laws. :(

  12. Brittany says:

    “reasonable unpaid break time each day”

    So we are required to clock out to go pump?

    Is 20 minutes reasonable?

    Is there a limit to the amount of times a day?
    (I do twice and add one on lunch if I am engorged)

    • admin says:

      Brittany, I am not aware of any of these questions having been answered. Wish I had more to tell you.

  13. Kerri McElroy says:

    I have the same questions as Brittany. My baby is almost 2 months old and ive been having trouble getting enough milk so pumping at work is very important. My boss is trying to say 10 mins twice a day which is not enough for me. Any law regarding how long and how many times

    • admin says:

      I am not aware of any clarification of on this unfortunately. There is no question you can provide expert medical support that ten minutes twice a day is most definitely NOT enough time.

  14. Jessica says:

    I’m starting a job at a bar on Beale Street, this statement is a little concerning, “An employer shall not be required to provide break time under this section if to do so would unduly disrupt the operations of the employer.” Basically if my employer thinks that giving me the 2 15min breaks during work that I’ll need will disrupt operations he can deny me these breaks? I’m willing to give up my lunch to have these breaks as well as being flexible on when, but he thinks finding someone to cover me for those to 15min breaks will be hard, especially in May.

    • admin says:

      TN’s workplace pumping law has no enforcement provision but I would file a complaint with the state Department of Labor. It is the employer’s duty to prove disruption and not a chance 2 fifteen minute breaks disrupt anything.

  15. Bestfeeder says:

    I was told I could not breastfeed while standing in the swimming pool because no food or drink is allowed in the pool. I thought I could breastfeed “any location public or private”. Does a food or drink policy supersede this breast-feeding protection law? Thanks in advance.

    • admin says:

      If this is a public pool, it is a public accommodation. The “no food or drink” ploy is pretty common and totally ridiculous. Unfortunately Tennessee’s public breastfeeding law does not have an enforcement provision. However, the law is not superceded by a “no food or drink” rule.