Your Rights As a Breastfeeding Employee

April 29, 2014. Posted in: Employed moms

by the United States Breastfeeding Committee

Know Your Rights as a Breastfeeding Employee

Knowing your rights as a breastfeeding employee and early communication with your employer are some of the key steps to planning a successful transition back to work. Since 2010, the federal “Break Time for Nursing Mothers” law has helped make breastfeeding and working possible for more moms across the country. The law requires employers to provide break time and a private place for hourly paid employees to pump breast milk during the work day.

If you are not covered by the federal law, don’t panic. Contact your state or local breastfeeding coalition to find out if you are covered by a state law, and join the United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC) in the fight to extend workplace breastfeeding protection to more employees by asking your legislators to cosponsor the Supporting Working Moms Act.

Key Facts about the “Break Time for Nursing Mothers” Law:

  • Who is covered: The law applies to nonexempt (hourly) employees covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act.
  • Space: Employers are required to provide a place that is not a bathroom. It must be completely private so that no one can see inside. Employers are not required to create a permanent dedicated space for breastfeeding employees. As long as the space is available each time you need it, your employer is meeting the space requirements.
  • Time: The law requires employers to provide “reasonable” break time, recognizing that how often and how much time it takes to pump is different for every mother. Employers must provide time and space each time you need it. To maintain your supply, you will need to pump as often as your baby usually eats. To estimate how much time you will need, remember to consider all the steps you will need to take, including the time it will take to gather your pumping supplies, get to the space, pump, clean up, and return to your workspace. The law does not require pumping breaks to be paid, however if your employer already offers paid breaks and you use those breaks to pump your milk, your time should be paid in the usual way.
  • Enforcement: The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) is responsible for enforcing the “Break Time for Nursing Mothers” law. For help, call the toll-free WHD number 1-800-487-9243. You will then be directed to your nearest WHD office for assistance.
  • Small Businesses: All employers, regardless of their size or number of employees, must comply with the “Break Time for Nursing Mothers” law. Following a complaint from a breastfeeding employee, businesses with fewer than 50 employees may be able to apply for an undue hardship exemption. To receive an exemption for that employee, the employer must prove that providing these accommodations would cause “significant difficulty or expense when considered in relation to the size, financial resources, nature, or structure of the employer’s business.” Until they are granted an exemption by the Department of Labor, they must comply with the law.

The “Break Time for Nursing Mothers” law was an important victory for families, but breastfeeding success shouldn’t depend on a mom’s job type. The Supporting Working Moms Act would expand the existing federal law to cover approximately 12 million salaried employees, including elementary and secondary school teachers. By raising our voices together, we can create the lasting change families need. Use USBC’s easy action tool to ask your legislators to cosponsor the Supporting Working Moms Act with just a few clicks.

Breastfeeding and working is not only possible, it’s good for business. Find additional information and resources in USBC’s Online Guide: What You Need to Know About the “Break Time for Nursing Mothers” Law.

Important links and information:

Important links and information: