Nursing Mothers in the Workplace
In March 2010, Congress passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which brought us health care reform. Imbedded in this legislation was a provision that altered the Fair Labor Standards ACT (FLSA) as to how employers are to treat nursing mothers.
While this may not be an issue that arises often in your place of business, when it does, you’ll need to be prepared to provide accommodation.
Who does this law apply to?
The law applies to all employers who fall under the FLSA. However, it does separate larger employers from smaller ones. It calculates the size of a workforce by counting all of a company’s full-time and part-time employees working at all of a company’s work-sites.
- There are no exclusions for employers with 50 or more employees.
- Employers with less than 50 employees may be exempt if they can prove that complying will create an undue hardship because of difficulty or expense
What accommodations does the law require for nursing mothers?
This law requires the employer to set aside a private place for nursing mothers to take reasonable breaks as needed to express breast milk, for up to one year after their baby’s birth The private place cannot be a bathroom, and must be private and free from intrusion.
The break time must only be compensated to the extent that the breaks would have normally been compensated time.
This applies only to non-exempt employees, because exempt employees already have the right to take breaks whenever they desire.
The importance of planning in advance:
One can imagine many scenarios in which it might be uncomfortable for a nursing mother to ask her supervisor for accommodation. Having a plan already in place for dealing with this situation is in the best interests of the employee, the business, and the baby.
Sparing a frazzled new mom from having to engage in what might be, from her perspective, a very intimidating conversation is not just a kindness, but also a common sense way to keep her from unnecessarily expending mental energy that would be better used for her work tasks.
After all, new mothers are already shouldering the exhaustion and stress of taking care of a newborn infant. Helping them smoothly blend their parental responsibilities with their work responsibilities in this small way can make a big difference in their stress-levels, the quality of their work, and their ability to focus. Not to mention that it can be a pretty big boost to their morale and their loyalty to you and your company!