Topic of the Week Breastfeeding in the Workplace: What Does the Law Require
- Is there a federal law that protects breastfeeding moms in the workplace?
- Who is entitled to reasonable break time and a space for expressing breast milk at work under the law?
- What does my employer have to provide me with after I request a break?
- Am I required to be paid for break time taken to express breast milk?
Is there a federal law that protects breastfeeding moms in the workplace?
Federal Protections for nursing mothers include the amended section 7 of 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 women to express milk after the birth of a child.
The amendment also requires that employers provide employees with a space to express milk. This place must be something other than a bathroom, and must be shielded from view and intrusion of coworkers and the public.
Under these protections, a reasonable break must be provided to employees within 1 year of giving birth. Under the federal law, employers are not required to compensate employees for the time that they take for a break to express milk, or for any other time spend for such purpose.
If your employer has fewer than 50 employees, these federal requirements do not apply in your workplace if the requirements impose and undue burden on your employer.
Since these protections may be limited, and may exclude some employees, understanding the laws in your state may help you better understanding your rights. Read below for more information about state laws on breastfeeding rights.
Who is entitled to reasonable break time and a space for expressing breast milk at work under the law?
All covered employers under the FLSA are required to follow section 7(r) and provide reasonable break time and a space other than the bathroom for their employees to express breast milk.
The FLSA applies to a broad range of employers. The law covers employers whose annual sales total $50,000 or more or employers engaged in interstate commerce. In practice, the statute covers nearly all workplaces.
There is an exception for employers with less than 50 employees. These employers do not have to follow the requirements of section 7(r) if the requirements would impose an undue hardship by causing the employer significant difficulty or expense when considered in relation to the size, financial resources, nature, or structure of the employer’s business.
What does my employer have to provide me with after I request a break?
Section 7(r) of the FLSA requires employers to provide a reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for up to 1 year after the child’s birth. The employer is required to provide this break each time an employee needs to express milk.
Employers must also provide a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion of coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.
Am I required to be paid for break time taken to express breast milk?
No. Employers are not required to compensate employees for break time used to express breast milk. However, if an employer already provides compensated break time, an employee who uses that time to express milk must be compensated in the same way that other employees are compensated for break time.
Also, the FLSA has a general break time requirement that an employee must be completely relieved from duties or else the time must be compensated as work time. This provision applies to break time taken to express breast milk.