A bipartisan federal bill proposes to require nursing mom protections for all female employees.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers with 50 or more employees to provide new moms with reasonable break time and a private place to pump breastmilk.

Well, not all new moms; just the non-exempt workers; i.e., the overtime-eligible employees. But, new bipartisan legislation proposed last week in the Senate will change all that.

According to this press release from Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley (D), Senators Merkley, Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Cory Booker (D-NJ), “announced the introduction of bipartisan legislation to provide salaried employees in traditional office environments—a group of approximately 13.5 million executive, administrative, and professional women—with reasonable break time and a private place to pump breastmilk.”

The legislation is called the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections (PUMP) for Nursing Mothers Act. (Oh, I see what they did there.) You can view a copy of it here.

Not only would the bill expand the FLSA to permit all employees reasonable break time and a private place to pump breastmilk, but also the legislation adds more teeth to the FLSA. Specifically, there would be an anti-retaliation enforcement provision permit those who oppose employers that violate the law to seek relief if their employer takes adverse action against them for complaining. Additionally, the amendment would clarify that, while this time is generally non-compensable for non-exempt employees, a business would have to pay a nursing worker that is not entirely relieved from duty during the break.

Takeaways for employers.

  1. Even if this legislation goes nowhere, there’s nothing stopping businesses with 50 or more employees from providing all nursing mothers reasonable break time and a private place to pump breastmilk. Indeed, if you don’t, I suspect that you may have a morale issue on your hands. Also, there’s nothing stopping businesses with less than 50 employees from doing the same.
  2. Don’t forget about more generous state or local laws. According to this source, twenty-nine states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have laws related to breastfeeding in the workplace. (Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming.)
  3. “A private place to pump breastmilk” is not the bathroom. Ever. Instead, find a clean place shielded from view and free from intrusion by coworkers or the public.

 

“Doing What’s Right – Not Just What’s Legal”