Women who are actively nursing sometimes need to pump during the workday. Since pumping, nursing, and breastfeeding require a degree of exposure, federal regulations and state laws protect women who need to pump from criminal charges for public indecency or public exposure.
In 2009, the federal Breastfeeding Promotion Act was introduced to Congress and was later passed in part as an Affordable Care Act amendment to federal law. The Fair Labor Standards Act was also amended so that hourly employees must be allowed unpaid break time to pump until their child is one year old.
While employers must allow employees to pump breastmilk in the workplace, not all employers are required to create a separate private space designated for pumping. Employers that are covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) must create a designated space that is out of view and out of any flow of office traffic or other work-related congregation.
Additionally, Public Law 106-058 § 647 (1999) allows women to breastfeed or pump on Federal property and in Federal buildings as long as she has been given permission and clearance to be at that location.
Which States Allow Breast Pumping in the Workplace?
Federal protections and regulations ensure that breast pumping in the workplace is allowed in every state. However, individual states are permitted to provide details about the regulation practices or to specify enforcement methods. Some states assert that breast pumping is a right that mothers of newborns have, but do not allow women who are denied the opportunity to pump to file suit against the workplace.
The strongest state breast pumping regulations specify the most details regarding opportunities for pumping during the work day, as well as allow legal recompense if those opportunities are not provided by the employer. Other states included language aimed at public breastfeeding decorum.
Illinois, for example, included language in its 2004 consolidated statutes indicating that a woman should conform to the expected norms of where she plans to pump. Missouri revised statutes in 2006, and specified that a woman who needs to pump in a public place should be as discrete as possible during the process. Colorado has allowed women to take breast milk pumping breaks longer than the FLSA required, up until the child being breastfed is two years old.
How Does Federal Law Enforce Workplace Breast Pumping?
Employers with less than 50 employees may be exempt from federal FLSA breastfeeding regulations.
If an employer can prove that allowing the employee to pump at work would cause the company undue hardship, that company might not be required to make the workplace breast pumping regulations the FLSA outlines.
Federal laws do not make provisions for enforcement by way of civil suits. Consult an attorney to find out what the specific laws are you in your state regarding ability to file suit if you were denied a place or a time to pump during the work day.
Do I Need a Lawyer if I Am Not Allowed to Pump at Work?
Yes. Since the Affordable Care Act establishes new legal standards, and because each state has its own regulations on specific guidelines for workplace breast pumping, an employment lawyer can help research the regulations in your state and help present your legal case in court.