Break Time for Nursing Mothers
August is National Breastfeeding Month, and this year’s theme happens to be “Breastfeeding at Work: Let’s Make It Work!” Women cite returning to work as one of the foremost reasons for discontinuing breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding requires supportive environments, and that includes a mother’s workplace.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act amended section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and requires employers to provide a reasonable amount of break time as well as a space to express milk as frequently as needed by a nursing mother, for up to one year following the birth of her child. Here are some other requirements:
- The space must be shielded from view and free from intrusion by coworkers or the public.
- The use of a bathroom is not an acceptable space to provide to nursing mothers expressing milk.
- Nursing employees must have access to this space each time they need to express milk.
- The frequency of breaks needed to express breast milk as well as the duration of each break depends on several factors and may vary.
According to the Department of Labor, all employers covered by the FLSA, regardless of the size of their business, are required to comply with this provision. However, employers with fewer than 50 employees are not subject to the FLSA break time requirement if the employer can demonstrate that compliance with the provision would impose an undue hardship. Whether compliance would be an undue hardship is determined by looking at the difficulty or expense of compliance for a specific employer in comparison to the size, financial resources, nature, or structure of the employer’s business. Be aware that the FLSA requirement of break time for nursing mothers to express breast milk does not preempt State laws that provide greater protections to employees.