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Handle a Lactation Accommodation Request Checklist

Author: XpertHR Editorial Team

When to Use

Numerous laws on the federal, state and local level may require an employer to provide reasonable accommodations to employees who are breastfeeding or lactating. Such accommodations may include providing break times for lactation and lactation facilities, or providing private and secure locations or spaces.

This checklist may be used by an employer to assist in handling a lactation accommodation request. Employers should complete the following steps in sequential order.

Customizable Checklist

Handle a Lactation Accommodation Request Checklist

Maintain a Lactation Policy and Process for Requesting Accommodations

  • Develop, implement and enforce a policy addressing lactation in the workplace and during working hours.
  • Make sure the policy and process is included in any employee handbook.
  • Ensure all employees are aware of the policy and the procedure for requesting a lactation accommodation.
  • Provide any forms an employee may need to request a lactation accommodation.
  • Consult federal, state or local laws that may legally require an employer to maintain a particular policy, process and/or procedure for requesting accommodations.

Receive a Lactation Accommodation Request

  • Develop an understanding of the nature of the lactation accommodation request.
  • Recognize that the request may be oral or in writing.
  • Document that the request was received in order to create a record of what transpired during the process and how the employer responded.
  • Understand that federal, state or local laws may legally require an employer to provide particular accommodations and outline a process that must be followed.
  • Individually assess each request to determine what form of accommodation may be appropriate.
  • Take all requests seriously from the start to prevent discrimination, harassment or failure-to-accommodate claims.
  • If unsure whether the employee is requesting an accommodation, ask the employee for more information to clarify the nature of the request.
  • Respond to requests in a timely manner as unnecessary delays may result in legal consequences.
  • Designate an individual within the organization to track accommodation requests so they are not lost, ignored or forgotten.
  • Do not retaliate against individuals for requesting lactation accommodations.

Initiate the Interactive Process

  • Understand that the interactive process is when an employer and an employee engage in open-ended dialogue to determine if the employer can reasonably accommodate an employee's request for a lactation accommodation.
  • Conduct the interactive process in good faith, attempting to be flexible and respond in a timely manner.
  • Ask for more information, if necessary, concerning the nature of the lactation accommodation and why it is needed.
  • Document each step of the interactive process and take detailed notes about:
    • When the accommodation request was made;
    • When the meetings to discuss the request were held;
    • The requested accommodation;
    • Steps taken to explore the requested accommodation and any alternatives;
    • The final decision; and
    • Whether the accommodation request is denied because of an undue hardship on the employer's operations.

Discuss Potential Accommodations with the Employee

  • Review possible accommodations with the employee and brainstorm possible solutions including:
    • Providing a private, sanitary space for the employee to express breast milk;
    • Permitting the employee to express breast milk or nurse in their own private office;
    • Allowing reasonable break time to express breast milk;
    • Providing a refrigerator to store breast milk;
    • Permitting the employee to telecommute if reasonable; or
    • Limiting travel responsibilities, if reasonable.

Determine if the Requested Lactation Accommodation Is Feasible

  • Communicate with managers and supervisors to discuss a requested accommodation.
  • Consider policies and work rules already in place and how they may be affected by the requested lactation accommodation.
  • Consider lactation accommodations previously provided to other employees.
  • Remember that in providing a lactation accommodation, an employer may be setting precedent for other employees and future situations.
  • Review federal, state or local legal rules and requirements that may impact the employer's obligations.
  • Consult legal counsel if necessary for guidance and advice.

Determine if the Requested Accommodation Creates an Undue Hardship

  • Consider whether the requested accommodation creates an undue hardship by taking the following into account:
    • The nature and cost of the accommodation;
    • The overall financial resources of the facility or facilities involved in providing the reasonable accommodation (i.e., number of employees;  effect on expenses and resources;  impact on operations);
    • The overall financial resources of the covered entity (i.e., the size of the business in comparison to the number of employees; the number, type, and location of facilities); and
    • The type of operation or operations of the covered entity (i.e., the composition, structure and functions of the workforce).
  • Consider the difficulty or expense of compliance for a specific employer compared to the size, financial resources, nature, and structure of the employer's business.
  • If the employee's requested accommodation cannot be provided, consider offering an alternative accommodation that would allow the employee to express breast milk.
  • Consult legal counsel if necessary for guidance and advice.

Respond to the Lactation Accommodation Request

  • Respond to a request for lactation accommodation in a timely manner.
  • Make sure to document the response in writing so there is an adequate record of what transpired.

Implement the Lactation Accommodation

  • Make arrangements for any workplace changes that may be needed in order to fulfill an accommodation request.
  • Notify any supervisor or employees whose work schedules or work duties and responsibilities may be affected by the implementation of the accommodation.

Monitor the Lactation Accommodation

  • Monitor the accommodation to see if it is meeting the needs of the employee, the employer, supervisors and co-workers.
  • Request that the employee notify the employer of any changes to the accommodation that may be needed.
  • Continue to maintain records of the lactation accommodation.

Tips

It is critical to train supervisors on how to handle lactation accommodation requests.  Supervisors should work with employees to make sure they are able to schedule time to breastfeed, as balanced against their work duties and responsibilities.

The following factors may be considered in determining whether a breastfeeding or lactation break is reasonable:

  • The time it takes to walk to and from the lactation space and the wait, if any, to use the space;
  • Whether the employee has to retrieve supplies from another location;
  • Whether the employee has to set up a pump if a pump is not provided, and the efficiency of the pump;
  • The location of the sink to clean hands and the pump equipment when pumping is completed; and
  • The time it will take to store milk.

An employer may wish to designate a nursing mothers' room and equip it with comfortable seating and outlets to provide power to breast pumps as well as a refrigerator for storage. This may help foster a more family-friendly and accommodating workplace. If a designated room is not available, consider providing an empty office or conference room, lounge or break area that may be made private and shielded from view and intrusion by other employees. An employer also may want to provide nursing mothers with a place to store expressed milk.

Warnings

Under the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act, lactation and breastfeeding is a pregnancy-related medical condition. An employer should permit an employee who is breastfeeding to address breastfeeding-related needs to the same extent as employees with other similarly limiting medical conditions. This is true when it comes to requests for time off for doctor's appointments, changes in schedules or other requested accommodations. An employer must treat women with pregnancy-related conditions the same as workers who are not experiencing pregnancy-related conditions. Similarly, many state and local equal laws specify that breastfeeding women may be considered a protected class As such, an employer should be careful to avoid stereotyping or making snap judgments about women who are breastfeeding, as this may result in a discrimination and/or harassment claim.

If necessary, the above checklist should be modified so that it is in compliance with any applicable state and local laws.

Additional Resources

Breastfeeding Policy

How to Establish Breastfeeding Breaks for Nursing Mothers

Lactation/Breastfeeding Breaks and Facility Accommodation Requirements by State and Municipality

Become a Breastfeeding/Lactation-Friendly Employer Checklist

Hours Worked: Federal > Breastfeeding Breaks

EEO-Discrimination: Federal > Lactation/Breastfeeding Protections and Accommodations