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 an amendment to the rest breaks law, effective September 20, 2018.
Effective January 1, 2019, California's breastfeeding breaks law will be amended to prohibit employers from using bathrooms as a location for employees to express milk in private.
Effective August 21, 2018, employers covered by the Nursing Mothers in the Workplace Act are prohibited from reducing employees' compensation for time used to express milk or nurse a baby.
Updated to reflect amendments to the breastfeeding breaks law in Illinois, effective August 21, 2018.
HR guidance on complying with federal and state employer requirements involving break periods for breastfeeding and lactation, whether paid or unpaid.