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Breast Milk Pumping in the Workplace

By: Dr. Samuel Macferran 
Research shows that breastfeeding (http://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding) can help reduce childhood obesity and protect babies from several medical issues. The benefits are particularly noticeable when mothers exclusively breastfeed for the baby’s first six months and continue breastfeeding up to two years of age with appropriate, complementary foods. Mothers can legally breastfeed in public in every state, and federal law permits working mothers a reasonable amount of time to express breast milk in a private setting at the workplace.
As of March 23, 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act amended the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (Section 7(r), 29 U.S. Code 207) to address the issue of pumping breast milk while at work. Specifically it states that:
1. An employer shall provide a reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child’s birth each time such employee (a nursing mother) has a need to express the milk. The woman pumping can decide when she needs to pump and how much time is required. The time to pump is not to be dictated by the company employing that woman;
2. A place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from co-workers and the public, should be provided by the employer to be used by an employee (nursing mother) to express breast milk. A bathroom, even if private, is not a permissible location under the Act. The location provided must be functional as a space for expressing breast milk. If the space is not dedicated to the nursing mother’s use, it must be available when needed in order to meet the statutory requirement. A space temporarily created or converted into a space for expressing milk or made available when needed by the nursing mother is sufficient provided that the space is shielded from view, and free from any intrusion from co-workers and the public;
3. Employers are not required under the FLSA to compensate nursing mothers for breaks taken for the purpose of expressing milk. However, where employers already provide compensated breaks, an employee who uses that break time to express milk must be compensated in the same way that other employees are compensated for break time. In addition, the FLSA requires that the employee must be completely relieved from duty or else the time must be compensated as work time;
4. An employer that employs less than 50 employees shall not be subject to the requirements of this subsection, if such requirements would impose an undue hardship by causing the employer significant difficulty or expense when considered in relation to the size, financial resources, nature, or structure of the employer’s business. A smaller company may choose to follow these recommendations if it chooses to.
5. Nothing in this subsection shall preempt a state law that provides greater protections to employees than the protections provided for under this subsection.  For example, state law may provide compensated break time, break time for exempt employees, or break time beyond one year after the child’s birth.