In today’s society, it is almost necessary for both parents to work full-time outside the home. For most moms, the thought of returning to work after maternity leave is extremely stressful. This is especially true if she has made the decision to breastfeed. Luckily there are laws in place that can help ease the stress nursing moms face when returning to work.
When President Barack Obama signed The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (P.L. 111-148, known as the “Affordable Care Act”), it amended § 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) to require employers to provide “reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk.”
As a result, most employers are required to provide a reasonable amount of break time and a space to express milk as frequently as needed by the nursing mother, for up to one year following the birth of the employee’s child. The frequency of breaks needed to express breast milk as well as the duration of each break will likely vary. 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. The break time requirement became effective when the Affordable Care Act was signed into law on March 23, 2010.
Employers are not required pay for the time the nursing mother takes for her nursing breaks, unless she uses her paid break time for this purpose. However, if the nursing mother is not fully relieved from duty while nursing, she is entitled to receive pay for that time.
If a space is created or converted into a space for expressing milk or made available when needed by the nursing mother, it is sufficient so long as the space is shielded from view, and free from any intrusion from co-workers and the public. The location provided must be functional as a space for expressing breast milk. If the space is not dedicated to the nursing mother’s use, it must be available when needed in order to meet the statutory requirement. Of course, employers may choose to create permanent, dedicated space if they determine that is the best way to meet their obligations under the law.
Take it easy, Moms, you have enough to worry about.