Topic of the Week National Breastfeeding Month and Your Rights at Work
Workers who are nursing are protected under the Fair Labor Standard Act (FLSA) which took effect via the Affordable Care Act in 2010. This legislation requires that employers provide a reasonable break time for employees to express milk for up to a full year after the birth of a child and a private space to do so that is not a bathroom.
Employers are not required to compensate employees for the break time that they take to express milk, however, if an employer typically offers paid breaks to all employees, nursing workers can use the compensated break time for this purpose.
Since these protections may be limited, and may exclude some employers, it's important to know the law in your specific state. Learn more here.
1. How do I request a break to express breast?
There is no formal way to request a break to express milk. Employers are required to treat breaks taken to express breast milk the same as other breaks. Also employers are required to allow breast feeding moms to express milk as frequently as needed. Communication between the employer and employee can help to make this process a smooth one.
2. Does my employer need to provide a permanent space for nursing mothers to express breast milk at work?
No. Employers may designate a temporarily created or converted space for expressing milk. The space does not need to be permanent but it must be available when needed by nursing mothers. The space must be shielded from view, and free from intrusion from co-workers and the public. Employers may choose to create a permanent space dedicated for expressing breast milk.
3. How do I file a complaint for a violation of a breastfeeding break time?
Nursing mothers who feel their break time requirements have been violated can file a complaint with the Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division (WHD). The WHD staff would benefit from information such as the date of birth of your nursing child and a description of your concern; for example, lack of reasonable time or adequate space for expressing milk.
All services are free and confidential, and your employer cannot terminate you or in any other manner discriminate against you for filing a complaint with the Wage and Hour Division.