Yes. Pursuant to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) of the Fair Labor Standards Act, employers must provide reasonable break time for new mothers to express breast milk for her nursing child. This includes allowing mothers to breastfeed their child in the workplace. Employers only need to provide break times for one year after the child’s birth.
What Employers Must Follow the Workplace Breastfeeding Laws?
All employees who work for employers covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and who are not exempt are entitled to breaks for expressing breast milk. The FLSA covers employers who engage in interstate commerce, produce goods for interstate commerce, or handle, sell, or work on goods that are moved in interstate commerce so long as they make $500,000 in annual dollar volume from their business.
It also covers hospitals, institutions engaged in care for sick, mentally ill, aged, or disabled, schools for children who are mentally or physically disabled, preschools, elementary schools, secondary schools, and higher education, as well as government agencies.
Some employers are exempt from the “reasonable break time” requirement. Employers with less than 50 employees are generally exempt unless the employer is covered by FLSA. Further, any employer who is not covered by the FLSA is exempt. Employers can also be exempt if they can show that meeting the break time requirement would be an undue hardship to their business.
What is a “Reasonable Break Time”?
What is deemed reasonable depends on the amount of time it takes a nursing mother to express breast milk. Generally, many businesses consider 30 minutes adequate time to pump plus wash all pumping equipment or physically nurse their child, although some women may need more time.
Must the Employer Compensate the Employee During the Breaks?
No, employers are not required to compensate an employee for the break time. However, if the employer already provides paid breaks to their employees, the employee who uses the break time for expressing milk must be paid just as the other employees are paid for their breaks. The employer does not need to compensate the employee for time used beyond the authorized break time.
How Many Breaks Can I Take?
The breaks must be provided as frequently as the employee needs to express the milk. In that regard, the number of breaks is determined on a case-by-case basis. Notwithstanding, the Department of Labor (DOL) expects nursing mothers to take around two to three breaks in an eight-hour workday.
Where Can I Take My Break?
Employers must provide a private place free from intrusion and out of view for nursing mothers to express milk. It must be a place other than the bathroom. The room can be partitioned off for multiple mothers to use, or even separated by a curtain. Further, any windows in the room need to be covered to ensure the space is shielded from view.
Employers must ensure privacy by providing signs which state that the room is in use or put a lock on the door. A lounge can be adequate to meet the requirements by law so long as it is sufficiently private and out of view.
Should I Hire a Lawyer if My Employer Refuses to Allow Me to Breastfeed at Work?
Yes. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is still current law, so many employers are required to provide breaks and a space for nursing mothers to express milk. An employment attorney can help you understand what employers owe employees who choose to nurse their infants.