Unfortunately, not all employers are the most supportive when it comes to nursing mothers and fail to provide their employees with proper notification of their rights.
Well, I’m here to help change that! Here you will find a complete breakdown of your rights as a breastfeeding mother at your place of work.
The Affordable Care Act made some important amendments to the law concerning nursing mothers. I will outline those for you to make it easy to understand.
Never give up on breastfeeding because your employer is being difficult! Educate yourself and go into the conversation with your employer prepared to discuss what accommodations you are in need of.
What the Law says about Nursing Mothers at Work
Per the US Department of Labor website, the following is a brief summary of the laws regarding breastfeeding mothers –
“The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (P.L. 111-148, known as the “Affordable Care Act”) amended section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) to require employers to provide “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.” See 29 U.S.C. 207(r). The break time requirement became effective when the Affordable Care Act was signed into law on March 23, 2010.”
So Simply put, you are entitled under the law to:
- Take reasonable breaks to express breast milk for up to a year after your baby is born.
- Not be limited on the breaks you need to express breast milk (your employer can’t say you can only have 1 break for example) – The law allows the mother to take breaks “as needed”.
- Be provided with a place other than the bathroom (thank you very much!) that is private and free from intrusion to pump.
- Does not matter how small the business is as long as they are covered by the FLSA (see below on who that applies to), then the employer must follow this law.
Who is covered by the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act)?
It is really easier to list who is NOT covered by the FLSA. There are several categories that this does not apply to. Unless your profession is listed below, then you are covered by the FLSA.
Not covered by the FLSA –
- Companies who report less than $500,000 in annual dollar volume of business – though some may still be covered so best to contact the Department of Labor for more info.
- Institutions primarily engaged in the care of the sick, aged, mentally ill, or disabled who reside on the premises
- Schools for children who are mentally or physically disabled or gifted
- Preschools, elementary and secondary schools, and institutions of higher education
- Federal, state, and local government agencies.
Now just because you are a teacher, for example, doesn’t mean your place of work won’t try to accommodate your needs. Open up that line of communication with your employer and find out what can be worked out. Your HR department might be a great place to start to find out what, if any, policies your employer already has in place.
What Kind of Space Should You be Provided With?
Well, as outlined above, it must be a private area free from interruptions. It does not need to be a permanent space dedicated just to pumping, though. It can be for example a private office or room that you can use but it must be available when it is needed in order to meet the statutory requirement.
Your employer CANNOT suggest the bathroom as an option. This is a direct violation of the requirements under the law. So don’t be bullied into that! Gross!
Many large companies have dedicated “Nursing Mother” rooms. Talking with your Human Resources (HR) department or your boss to get more information on what your company has to offer.
Are You Paid for Pumping Breaks?
The answer to this common question can vary. Is your employer required to pay you for the breaks you take to pump?
No, technically they don’t have to. BUT they do have to pay you for your paid regular breaks. Most mothers use their paid breaks as a time to pump and your employer would have to compensate you for that time.
If you took extra breaks, then that is up to your employer whether you get paid or not but the law does not require them to.
It is best to discuss this with your HR department.
Hopefully, this information helped you understand your rights as a breastfeeding employee. It is refreshing to see these standards being enforced to allow hard working mothers to provide their babies with breast milk.
If you ever have any specific questions related to this law, the Department of Labor is a great resource. But opening lines of communication with your employer is key. Make a plan. Discuss your needs and options. Everyone will feel better in the long run, especially you!
If you have any questions or comments on laws for nursing mothers, please leave a comment here. Thank you!