Need a refresher on providing break time for nursing moms at work?

Avent isis breast pump

Beukbeuk [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

I’ve got you covered.

According to a recent New York Times article, it is “common among American employers” for companies not to “provide hourly workers with break time and a private place to pump.”

Employers that don’t allow new moms time to pump at work may violate any variety of state and local laws. That’s true in New Jersey and the City of Philadelphia, for example. However, employers that operate in states and localities without similar laws risk violating federal law by failing to provide reasonable time and space for women to express breast milk for her nursing child. It’s a little law called the Fair Labor Standards Act.

If it’s been a while since you’ve brushed up on the federal requirements, here’s what you need to know:

Somewhere other than the bathroomEmployers 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.” This is true even if the bathroom is private. Pick another private place. It doesn’t have to be dedicated to the nursing mother’s use, but it must be available when needed. A private, temporary space — not the bathroom — is fine.

How long and how oftenIt depends. (Of course, it does.)

Do all employers have to complyEmployers with fewer than 50 employees do not have to comply if it would impose an undue hardship.  All employees who work for the covered employer, regardless of work site, are counted when determining whether this exemption may apply.

What is an undue hardship? It pretty much comes down to difficulty or expense. That’s a function of the employer’s size, financial resources, nature, and structure.

Do we have to pay employees who take breaks to express breast milkMaybe. Employers are not required under the FLSA to compensate nursing mothers for breaks taken for expressing milk. However, where employers already provide compensated breaks, an employee who uses that break time to express milk must be paid in the same way that other employees are compensated for break time.

Do these FLSA rules apply to exempt employees tooNo. However…

FLSA sets the floor. The amended FLSA does not preempt state/local laws that provide greater protections to employees.

Additional Resources. I’ve got lots for you.




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