USDOL Reminds Employers To Give Nursing Mothers At Work A Break

I nursed all three of my children when they were infants (they are horrified by this, naturally). When I returned to work, I pumped breastmilk at three – yes three – different law firms.

Nothing comes as close to the terror of someone banging on your office door while you’re half-dressed and trying to pump at work.

The U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) Women’s Bureau feels this pain. The Women’s Bureau, in conjunction with the Wage and Hour Division, recently released this resource on workplace protections for nursing mothers.

While this is not new news, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers to provide eligible employees with reasonable break time to pump breast milk for a nursing child for one year after birth. Under the law, employers are required to allow eligible employees reasonable break time to pump whenever they need.

This break time is unpaid, though employers can certainly provide employees with paid break time to nurse or pump.

Nursing employees must also have a private place to pump—space that is shielded from view, free from any intrusion, and NOT in a toilet stall bathroom.

However, the FLSA break time requirements apply only to employees who are eligible for overtime pay.

Image by fancycrave1 from Pixabay

What about exempt employees? You know, like salaried managers and office workers, school teachers, flight attendants and pilots. While these women may not be entitled to break time under the FLSA, this new and handy poster reminds employers 1) to check state law protections; and 2) not to retaliate against employees who ask to take time to pump at work.

Employer Takeaways

Ensure you know the protections provided to nursing employees in your workplace—under federal and state law. The US Department of Labor provides employers with this map of federal and state-level employment protections against pregnancy discrimination, provisions for pregnancy accommodation, and workplace breastfeeding rights.

Of course, employers should contact outside employment counsel to navigate these issues too.

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Amy Epstein Gluck

Amy Epstein Gluck has represented individuals and corporate clients in Virginia, Washington, D.C., and various federal district courts for more than twenty years. Ms. Epstein Gluck’s current practice areas include employment law—advising on and drafting employment agreements; handling employment negotiations, severance agreements, noncompete and nondisclosure agreements, “wrongful terminations” and other EEO matters; representation at the EEOC level; advising employers about discrimination laws and how to remain in compliance, and employment negotiations.