Breastfeeding employees in the United States enjoy specific legal rights that support their ability to express milk or breastfeed at work. Employers must adhere to these regulations.
State laws that may enhance federal protections vary, but the basic idea is that a breastfeeding employee should have enough time and space to pump as needed. This might mean a few breaks throughout the workday in a space conducive to expressing milk. Understanding these rights is critical to creating a supportive and legally compliant work environment.
Requirements for breastfeeding mothers
The Break Time for Nursing Mothers law is a federal law that’s associated with the Fair Labor Standards Act. It requires employers to provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child’s birth.
But it’s not just about time. It’s also about space. The law also mandates that employers provide a place, that’s not a bathroom, where employees can safely express breast milk. This space should be private and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public.
Only certain employers must comply
With all of that said, not all businesses are automatically subject to this law. It generally applies to employers covered by the FLSA. Smaller companies aren’t off the hook, though. They could still fall under this requirement if their activities have an interstate aspect. They may also be subject to state laws on the subject.
At the federal level, there’s an exemption for businesses with fewer than 50 employees if compliance would impose an undue hardship, which is determined based on the size, financial resources, nature or structure of the employer’s business.
Breastfeeding mothers who aren’t being given the time and space to pump at work should take action. Seeking legal guidance can help them to clarify their rights and options under the law.