What are your rights as a breastfeeding employee?

The federal “Break Time for Nursing Mothers” was included in the 2010 Affordable Care Act to help breastfeeding mothers maintain their jobs. According to the law, which is popularly known as “Obamacare,” employers with at least 50 employees are required to provide break time in a private facility for hourly-paid employees.  It is to be observed in any private place aside from the bathroom and also allows nursing mothers to pump their breast milk during the workday.

There is an ongoing debate about the Affordable Care Act by the U.S. Congress under the new Trump Presidential administration. Depending on the outcome of the debate, the Act may partially become obsolete or in part.

This writing covers the key facts about workplace breastfeeding policy that every nursing mother should know -

workplace breastfeeding policy for mothers

A breastfeeding employee has the right to receive basic accommodations and the time to feed breastfeed their newborn from employers, according to the federal Break Time for Nursing Mothers law covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Employers with less than 50 employees must apply to the department of labor and prove some claims to be exempted.

Qualified Persons for Federal Protection

Generally, the law applies to nonexempt (hourly) breastfeeding employees covered in the Fair Labor Standards Act. Hence, whether you are a part-timer or not, this law covers you.

The Break Time for Nursing Mothers Law

Employers with 50 employees and above are mandated to comply with the “break time for nursing mothers” breastfeeding policy. However, small businesses with less than 50 employees are also expected to comply with this law. But they can apply for an undue hardship exemption. The exemption requires the employer to prove that allowing breastfeeding at work would result to “significant difficulty or expense when considered in relation to the size, financial resources, nature, or structure of the employer’s business.” The Department of Labor is in charge of granting this exemption to employers. In the absence of this exemption, all must comply with the law.

What’s the break time duration?

The breastfeeding employee is to be provided with “reasonable” break time, according to the Law. The amount of time required to pump breast milk for various nursing mothers varies. The breastfeeding policy instructs that time and space should be provided whenever it is required.

It is important for nursing mothers to consider the necessary steps in pumping breast milk. This will help them estimate the amount of time it would take them. The time it would take to get pumping supplies, get into the private space, pump, clean up, and return to work position should all be considered. Employers are not obligated to pay for the breaks when their employee is breastfeeding at work. However, if you make use of the paid breaks your employer already provides to pump your milk, it will be paid for as usual.

Space to be provided

Breastfeeding employees are entitled to a private space besides the bathroom for pumping breast milk. The breastfeeding policy does not require employers to create a specific, permanent pumping facility.  Any temporary, private place that is always available when needed is acceptable.

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