For many working moms, returning to work after maternity leave not only brings challenges regarding finding adequate childcare for their little one, it can also cause challenges for those breastfeeding and needing to keep up with the demands of both their career and providing enough sustenance for their infant.
Luckily, federal and state laws now support working mothers with breastfeeding infants under the age of one year. According to the “Break Time for Nursing Mothers” law, put into effect on March 23, 2010, this federal law requires employers to provide break time and a place for hourly paid workers to express breast milk at work (i.e. – pump). In particular, the law states that employers must provide a “reasonable” amount of time for a nursing mother to pump and that they must provide a private space other than a bathroom for them to do so. All employers covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act of 2011 (FLSA) must comply with the break time for nursing mothers provision unless they have fewer than 50 employees and can demonstrate that compliance with the provision would impose an undue hardship.
As a part of Section 4207 of the Patient Protection Care Act, under the FLSA, nursing mothers should inform their employers that they plan on pumping breast milk for their child during the workday, and request a private space to do so. Many working mothers rely on being able to pump during work in an effort to provide enough breast milk for their babies while in day care. Though an employer has to provide a time and a place for mothers to pump, the breaks do NOT have to be paid breaks unless you are already entitled to them. Meaning, if you are entitled to a 15 minute break every few hours and you dedicate 25 minutes towards pumping, the employer only has to pay you for the original 15 minutes of break time.
Both state and federal laws exist regarding time and space requirements for nursing mothers. If your state has a law in place that is more beneficial than the federal law, then that law would apply in your case and vice versa. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures:
• Twenty-five states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have laws related to breastfeeding in the workplace. (Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming.)
• Sixteen states and Puerto Rico exempt breastfeeding mothers from jury duty or allow jury service to be postponed. (California, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota and Virginia.)
If you believe your employer is not complying with federal and/or state laws by failing to provide reasonable time and a place for you to express breast milk during your work day, please contact your state or the U.S. Department of Labor to make a formal complaint.
Rashida Maples, Esq. is Founder and Managing Partner of J. Maples & Associates (www.jmaplesandassociates.com . She has practiced Entertainment, Real Estate and Small Business Law for 10 years, handling both transactional and litigation matters. Her clients include R&B Artists Bilal and Olivia, NFL Superstar Ray Lewis, Fashion Powerhouse Harlem’s Fashion Row and Hirschfeld Properties, LLC.
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