Overview: 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
Updated to reflect forthcoming working time requirements under the employee work scheduling law.
Updated to reflect forthcoming San Francisco law regarding lactation accommodation.
Enhanced with information about the day of rest law.
Updated to reflect testing provisions in the West Virginia Safer Workplace Act, effective July 7, 2017.
Updated to reflect expanded protections for breastfeeding employees in Nevada, effective July 1, 2017.
Nevada employers with 50 or more employees should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook to demonstrate compliance with the Nevada law requiring that employers provide reasonable break time and appropriate locations for employees to express breast milk.
Updated to reflect information on a federal appeals court's ruling that employers have an obligation to exercise 'reasonable diligence' to find out whether their employees are working off the clock.
Utah employers seeking to inform employees of the availability of reasonable accommodations related to pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding or related conditions and to demonstrate compliance with the Utah Antidiscrimination Act should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.
New York employers that do not have a lactation accommodation policy in their handbook and are seeking to show their compliance and support for New York law which requires that employers provide unpaid break time and reasonable locations for employees to express breast milk should consider including this model policy statement in their New York supplement.
California employers seeking to encourage and demonstrate compliance with the California law requiring employers to provide unpaid break time and reasonable locations for employees to express breast milk should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook .
HR guidance on complying with federal and state employer requirements involving break periods for breastfeeding and lactation, whether paid or unpaid.