Breaks for nursing mothers: Just for nonexempts?

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in Compensation and Benefits,Human Resources

Q. We have an exempt employee who just returned after giving birth. She says she needs to express milk three times a day and we have to let her. I thought the federal law says breaks were just for hourly employees. Do we have to give her this time? She’s away from her desk for 20 to 30 minutes each time. — P.P., New Jersey

A. Federal law says employers are required to provide breastfeeding breaks only to nonexempt employees. So you don’t have to provide breaks to this exempt employee under the federal law. Read more about the law at www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs73.htm. Also, check your state law, which may be more lenient.

Even if the law doesn’t require such breaks, you may want to consider permitting them for employee morale reasons. Also, if you allow other exempt employees to take breaks for other reasons, you should treat this employee consistently. You should not prohibit her from taking breaks to breastfeed, yet allow other employees to take comparable breaks for other reasons.

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