Breastfeeding - Lactation Breaks

Editor's Note: Employers must provide female employees reasonable break time to express breast milk to nurse a child for one year after the child's birth.

Michael CardmanOverview: The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires an employer to provide female employees with reasonable break time to express breast milk to nurse a child for one year after the child's birth and as often as the employee needs to do so.

The FLSA does not require employers to pay nursing mothers for the time they spend in breastfeeding breaks. However, if an employer permits short rest breaks of 20 minutes or less, such as smoking breaks or water-cooler breaks, employees must be paid for that time. If an employer already provides such paid rest breaks, an employee who uses that break time to express milk must be paid just the same as other employees, according to regulations from the US Department of Labor (DOL).

Employers also should check to see if the state in which they are operating requires them to provide paid breastfeeding breaks or imposes any other additional requirements involving breastfeeding breaks.

Trends: Many employers adopt breastfeeding policies that specify when, where and how employees may breastfeed and/or express breast milk.

Author: Michael Cardman, Legal Editor

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HR guidance on complying with federal and state employer requirements involving break periods for breastfeeding and lactation, whether paid or unpaid.