Employers covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act must allow a worker to take a break from the work day to express breast milk for a nursing child. The obligation applies for the child's first year of life.
The Nursing Mother obligation requires an employer to
- Make available an appropriate location (not a bathroom) that is away from view and free from intrusion by co-workers or the public;
- Permit a reasonable break time under the circumstances; and
- Let the worker take a break each time she has need to express milk.
This FSLA requirement was added as part of health care reform. It does not apply to employee's who are classified as "exempt" employees, and employers with fewer than 50 workers will not have to comply if they can prove that undue hardship will result form providing the breaks.
Employers may want to develop policies and procedures to address the nursing mother break requirement even before an employee asks for accommodation. Such policies can identify the location for nursing, set a time limit for the breaks, and confirm if the break will be paid or unpaid. The policy could also provide documentation for the employee to complete identifying the age of the child and a manner for requesting the appropriate break. State laws should also be considered in case the state has more stringent break requirements.