Q. Could you give us some guidance on our requirement to provide breaks for nursing mothers?
A. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—the comprehensive health care reform law that went into effect in March—requires employers to provide nursing mothers with unpaid break time to express breast milk.
In July, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued a fact sheet called “Break Time for Nursing Mothers under the FLSA”. It clarifies that the requirement does not pre-empt state laws that provide greater protections to nursing mothers.
In addition, the DOL states that employers must provide a reasonable amount of time as frequently as needed by the mother, because the frequency of breaks and the duration of each break will probably vary.
A private bathroom is not a permissible location for lactation breaks.
However, a temporary space or a space that has been converted to be used for expressing milk is sufficient if it is shielded from view and free from intrusion from co-workers and the public.
The DOL also states that employers with fewer than 50 employees are not subject to this break-time requirement if compliance would impose an undue hardship.
Finally, the DOL clarifies that employers are not required to pay employees for the time they spend expressing milk.