In March 2010, The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act amended the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to require that employers provide reasonable break time and a private, non-bathroom area for those who wish to express (pump) breast milk for their child to have when they are apart.
Specifically, the Act requires that we provide a reasonable amount of break time (two or three lactation breaks per eight-hour shift may be reasonable) and a space as frequently as needed by the lactating employee, for up to one year following the birth of the employee’s child. The space provided by the employer cannot be a bathroom, and it must be shielded from view and free from intrusion by coworkers or the public (though the space can be temporarily created or converted for the duration of the mother’s need). Be aware that the frequency and length of breaks will vary.
Employers are not required under the FLSA to compensate lactating employees for these breaks. However, where we already provide paid breaks, a lactating employee who uses that break time must be compensated in the same way that other employees are compensated for break time, and they must be completely relieved from all duty during those breaks.
While this law specifically refers to non-exempt employees, the Department of Labor encourages employers to provide breaks to all lactating employees regardless of their status under the FLSA.
If you have not done so already, identify a private, non-bathroom space that can be used for lactation breaks, and train managers and supervisors about the requirements.
It is in all of our best interests to comply with these regulations. Breastfeeding not only helps keep moms and children healthy, it also helps families save money through reduced medical costs, lost time at work, and costs for formula and feeding supplies, which can total over $1,500 each year. Employers who support lactating employee describe the return on their investment as including lower health care costs, absenteeism and turnover rates, as well as higher productivity, improved morale, and greater job satisfaction.
To read more about these requirements you can read the Department of Labor’s Fact Sheet and its FAQs.
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
Wage and Hour Division, U.S. Department of Labor