1 lactating employee + 0 place to pump = 1 messy complaint

October 9, 2010
By Eric B. Meyer on October 9, 2010 3:17 PM | | Comments

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act , enacted earlier this year, amended the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to require a "reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child's birth each time such employee has need to express the milk." Employers are also required to provide "a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk." (Check out this fact sheet for more information)

It seems that one Iowa employer didn't get the memo. Instead, it now has a potential lawsuit. Read all the messy details, after the jump...

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Jennifer Jacobs of the Des Moines Register reports that a woman has quit her job and filed a civil rights complaint against her employer because, the woman contends, she didn't have a place to express breast milk for her newborn.

According to the story, the employer did have lactation rooms but, after returning from her maternity leave, the former employee was told she couldn't access one of the lactation rooms for at least three days. She tried to keep working, but ran into some problems.

Her breasts were engorged and leaking milk, making her extremely uncomfortable, she said in the complaint.

In an interview, she said she couldn't find an alternative place to use her electronic pump. The bathroom wasn't an option because there was no electricity in the private stalls, and she didn't think it was appropriate to expose herself to everyone who came into the bathroom, she said.

She considered going home to pump, but that would be time consuming, and she knew she'd need to pump again three hours later. So she resigned.

Although we only have one side of the story here, there are a few lessons to be learned for PA, NJ, and DE employers.

  1. Update your employee handbooks and HR policies to reflect the recent change to the FLSA.

  2. Have available not just one, but multiple locations, other than a bathroom, that are shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.

  3. Make sure that female employees who return to work from maternity leave know where they can breastfeed. Have a conversation with them.

  4. Provide ample time for female employees who return to work from maternity leave to breastfeed. Non-exempt employees don't get paid while breastfeeding, but they do get to breastfeed.

  5. Be prepared to shuffle some people around temporarily to accommodate breastfeeding employees.