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
New Jersey has enacted a law to protect breastfeeding mothers from discrimination at work that goes beyond federal protections. However, the law permits an exception if an employer can show that providing an accommodation would pose an undue hardship.
Updated to reflect expanded protections for breastfeeding employees in New Jersey, effective January 8, 2018.
Updated to reflect a San Francisco law regarding lactation accommodation, effective January 1, 2018.
San Francisco employers seeking to show their compliance with a San Francisco law requiring employers to provide unpaid break time and a lactation location for employees to express breast milk, should include this model policy statement in their handbook.
As mandated by the San Francisco Office of Labor Standards Enforcement, covered employers should use the San Francisco, California, Lactation Accommodation Policy to to establish guidelines promoting a work environment that supports breastfeeding; to establish that employees have a right to request lactation accommodation; and to comply with San Francisco's Lactation in the Workplace Ordinance.
A San Francisco employer may use this form when an employee requests a lactation accommodation pursuant to the San Francisco Lactation in the Workplace Ordinance.
Updated to reflect forthcoming working time requirements under the employee work scheduling law.
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.
HR guidance on complying with federal and state employer requirements involving break periods for breastfeeding and lactation, whether paid or unpaid.